A group of local parents have expressed displeasure at what seems to be an unfortunate coincidence, a company official said Wednesday.
The company Hard Candy, a national line of clothes sold at Walmart, has been questioned by parents for a slang connotation that references pedophilia, but company officials said they had no idea of the ulterior meaning until they were approached for the story.
“I was made aware of this just in the last few days. I know little to nothing about (“Hard Candy”), so I can’t comment toward why it was made, what it’s about, all of that,” said Neal Seideman, executive vice president for Hard Candy.
The clothing company, which, in addition to cosmetics also markets a clothing line to preteen and teenage girls, shares a name with a slang term that, according to Urban Dictionary.com, can mean: “An underage girl – often aged 12 to 16 – who is particularly attractive and/or gullible. In other words, a pedophile’s dream.”
Sharon Rodriguez, 49, of Stevenson Ranch, has four daughters ages 12-20, and her 15-year-old daughter almost bought one of the shirts before she was dissuaded by her older sister.
Rodriguez didn’t understand what the issue was at first, until a friend explained what the phrase “hard candy” can also mean.
“I was in the store and I was with a friend who used to run movie theaters, and he pointed it out to me and said, ‘Oh my god, there are so many things wrong with this,’” she said.
Her fear was that it could make young girls a target, mentioning a pink T-shirt with the words “Hard Candy Love” that she saw at the store.
There are several factors that make it a unique problem for the company, including a movie about a pedophile called “Hard Candy,” which is where the slang term presumably originates.
The 2005 movie featuring breakout star Ellen Page of “Juno” and “X-men” fame, was a relatively low-budget movie, according to IMDB.
However, the movie was released more than a half-dozen years after the cosmetics and clothing line was sold by international luxury brand LVMH to its current owners, Seideman said.
“We have no affiliation whatsoever (with the movie),” Seideman said. “We had no prior knowledge. In our 10 years of owning this brand, this has never come up until just now.”
When asked about what a business could do in this type of situation, Steve Tannehill, executive director of the Small Business Development Center at College of the Canyons, acknowledged that several factors made it a unique situation.
“It becomes a question of, ‘How do you protect your brand?’” Tannehill said, noting that in today’s era, it’s very difficult to just hope an affiliation like this, however unintentional, may “just go away.”
“Can you get a trademark? Can you get a copyright,” he posited. “There are ways to get legal protections for your brand, but enforcement of that can be quite difficult. Once the movie’s out, there’s not much to be done.”
The issue first came about when a parent noticed the line at a Walmart in Valencia, and contacted the store manager, who referred the parent to the corporate office.
A Walmart official declined to get into details regarding the companies’ affiliation, but did note that most choices are made at a corporate level with some local leeway.
The store wants to be responsive to community needs when possible, said Molly Philhours, a Walmart spokeswoman.
“We won’t publicly discuss business relationships with suppliers or potential suppliers,” Philhours said.
“A lot of decision are made out of our home office (in Arkansas), and we make every effort to be a store of the community,” she said, citing the example that an Atlanta store likely would carry merchandise from the NFL team the Atlanta Falcons, as opposed to products from the local team’s rival.
If an issue like this can’t be pre-empted, then there are reactive measures a business can take, Tannehill said.
The No. 1 thing he advised would be letting people know what a company is about, as a way of distancing the brand from a potential problem
“If you can’t protect your brand then it’s an an issue of, ‘How to do you address that?’” he said. I would tend to be an advocate of, in a situation like this, getting your message out through all channels.”
The company will continue its business, as it has no affiliation with the 2005 movie, Seideman said.
“We stand behind our brand name and the integrity of our company,” he said.