Skechers Pulls Shoes Ahead of Ad Industry Review

Company may have seen the writing on the wall

Skechers, the fitness shoemaker that just agreed to a $40 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over deceptive advertising charges, quietly pulled its toning shoe for girls from its product line.

Sometime while under investigation by the Children's Advertising Review Unit—and likely considering the FTC's $25 million settlement last September with Reebok over claims of false advertising for its toning shoes—Skechers stopped selling Active Club Shape-Ups for girls.

CARU this morning released the findings of a yearlong investigation that Skechers ads and packaging for the girls' toning shoes was misleading and implied the product would make a girl more popular and more fit.

The cartoon ad for the girls' toning shoes, which ran on TV nets such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, featured HyDee, an attractive, tall, slim teen who sings and dances to a jingle: "HyDee's got new Shape-Ups. She's got everything a girl wants. She's got the height, got the bounce. Yeah, she's looking good and having fun. Cause HyDee's got new Shape-Ups." On the packaging, Skechers claims, among other things, that "You can wear your Shape-Ups anywhere, which means you can help tone your muscles, improve your posture." The claims even imply that wearing Skechers can make a girl taller.

CARU's guidelines state: "The presentation should not mislead children about benefits from use of the product. Such benefits may include, but are not limited to, the acquisition of strength, status, popularity, growth, proficiency and intelligence."

"Children are not just little adults," CARU said in its decision. "By virtue of their immaturity, inexperience and lack of cognitive skills, children are more vulnerable to advertising messages and need the extra protections provided by the guidelines."

Skechers initially resisted the investigation, refusing to provide product and packaging samples and evidence to support its fitness claims, telling CARU that its implied claims were "puffery." When it came time for CARU to announce its findings, Skechers provided studies about its adult shoes, but nothing that tested young girls.

Responding to CARU's questions about packaging, Skechers said it placed stickers on boxes advising consumers to "Disregard all fitness benefit claims."

Soon after that, Skechers informed CARU that it was no longer selling the product and has no more plans to advertise it.

"Skechers has voluntarily abandoned the claims that CARU has identified and has discontinued production of this product and the related advertising materials," said the company in CARU's final decision document.

Skechers did not immediately return requests for comment.