Today, I showed up at the H&M nurse in, a peaceful event designed to draw awareness to the status of breastfeeding as a human right in BC. At least 100 people attended the event.

H&M said nothing. No PR person greeted the crowd. Store staff only came by to ask that no photos be taken. Of course, in this day and age, no one listened. The attendees had camera phones, digital cameras, video cameras, key chain cameras — and the media had photography equipment too. I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding from days spent in journalism class is that, if someone asks you not to take photos on private property and you continue to do so, they can ask you to leave and then charge you with trespassing. I’m not aware of H&M asking anyone to leave.

H&M treated the “nurse in” as a non-event. A few news stories have quoted H&M’s Toronto head office. Head office says that they allow public breastfeeding and that they will embark on an employee education campaign.

Why ignore the protest? By allowing people to exercise their legal right to nurse in the store, H&M refused to get into a bigger war. They’re trying hard to diffuse the situation. And, really, the people at the protest were hardly screaming. It was about education and awareness. From a marketing perspective, H&M did the right thing. They knew they couldn’t ban people from entering the store or breastfeeding. So, by refusing to fight, they probably put themselves in the best possible situation, given the circumstances.

Moreover, the event may have actually helped H&M. Several attendees said they’d never been in an H&M before. Many people with whom I talked said they didn’t know H&M had a downtown Vancouver location. And, although some people may boycott the store, it’s actually somewhere that some moms will now head — you can bet H&M is never going to ask a nursing mom to hide in a change room again. The chain may very well emerge as a place you can be sure of your rights. We’ll see.

(c) 2006 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.