LONDON, April 14, 2010 -- British fashion chain Primark has stopped selling padded bikini tops for children following a firestorm of criticism that the products sexualized young girls.
The retailer, known for its heavily discounted brands, acted after British newspaper The Sun published a withering story about the product on its front page.
The bikini sets, which included the padded top, came in pink with gold stars, or black with white polka dots. They are aimed at girls as young as 7.
"The company has stopped the sale of this product line with immediate effect," a Primark spokesman said In a statement. "Primark will donate all the profits made from this product line to a children's charity, and apologizes to customers for any offense caused."
But even after today's apology, Primark's Web site still made the following promise:
"We make no exception for the younger ladies, all the high fashion trends can be found in our Girlswear section, no matter what age you are."
Should young girls really wear the same clothing as adult women?
The retailer came under fire in 2002 for selling thong underwear in children's sizes with the words "eye candy" and "wink wink" printed on the front. The line of underwear was subsequently pulled from their kids' stores.
Penny Nicholls, director of Children and Young People at The Children's Society in the U.K., said their research shows that "commercial pressures towards premature sexualization and unprincipled advertising are damaging children's well-being," and "marketing and media coverage is encouraging the premature sexualization of children."
In 2008, teen superstar Miley Cyrus sparked controversy when she was photographed by Annie Leibovitz Vanity Fair at age 15 draped in a sheet with tousled hair and red lipstick.
Many parents and critics condemned the shoot, saying it was too sexual for her age and a poor example for the many young girls who looked up to her.
"Children themselves feel under pressure to keep up with the latest trends," Nicholls added.
"We need a significant change at the heart of society where adults stand up for better values.''