Primark has been forced to withdraw padded bikinis for seven-year-olds after critics condemned the store for fuelling child sexualisation.
The Children’s Society slammed the popular high street chain for “premature sexualisation and unprincipled advertising”.
And a child protection consultant who works to help victims of paedophilia said: “It never fails to amaze me just how many High Street household names are now prepared to exploit the disgusting ‘paedophile pound’.”
Parents warned that children were facing pressure to grow up too soon.
The bikini sets were on sale in Primark for just £4 until Wednesday. They were bright pink with gold stars.
Political parties also stepped into the row, with Conservative leader David Cameron describing the bikinis as “disgraceful”.
Primark have apologised for “any offence caused” and say they will donate any profits from the sale of the bikinis to a children’s charity.
But accusations are now being made that many other high street shops are also selling adult products aimed at children.
And there have been calls for a shift in the mindset of adults on the issue, with The Children’s Society saying there needs to be a “change at the heart of society where adults stand up for better values”.
Jenny Stallard, deputy editor of Practical Parenting and Pregnancy magazine, said: “A padded bikini for seven-year-olds is too much at too young an age. No wonder girls are confused about their bodies and self image.”
Schoolgirls discuss pressure of sex
Penny Nicholls, director of children and young people at The Children’s Society, said: “We know from our research that commercial pressures towards premature sexualisation and unprincipled advertising are damaging children’s well-being.
“The evidence shows that adults feel children are more materialistic than in past generations, while children themselves feel under pressure to keep up with the latest trends.”