Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Panorama undresses Primark's ethical claims

Long checkout queues on opening day at Primark Ealing, West London

Last night BBC's Panorama successfully proved what I'm sure many of us were wondering - Can Primark really sell clothes that cheap without exploiting the Indian textile workers?

The answer was a resounding no. Primark said the garments Panorama found being sewn by Indian Children as young as 11 were a breach of the suppliers' contracts - which state that all work must be done in factories. Child labour isn't permitted either. Primark has now cancelled all orders from those suppliers who made the garments which Panorama found being sewn in squalid refugee villages on wages as low as 50p a day.

Primark as a retailing phenomenon largely passed me by, until they opened in Ealing at the beginning of this month. After months of refurbishment Primark transformed the tired old Bentalls, more recently Beales, department store into a shining open plan palace packed with the cheapest clothes I have ever seen. Women were exiting the store, pushchairs piled high, infants buried beneath mountains of brown paper bags bearing the Primark logo. I wouldn't be writing a blog about my Adventures in Consumerland unless I was interested in shopping, so I had to see what all the fuss was about.

Cotton cushions sell for just £3 at Primark

I really was shocked by the prices on the clothes and household linens. I'd heard Primark was cheap, and I've seen how little Tesco sell T shirts for - but Primark prices represent a new low. Cotton cushions for £3, T shirts for £1.50. These items attract VAT at 17.5% so that's £2.58 and £1.29 respectively before the government tax. It's easy to see why people leave with bagfuls of the stuff - who cares if it doesn't last long - buy 2, in fact why not buy one in each colour while you're at it?Customers are still queuing at Primark Ealing - the day after the BBC's expose

Over 4m viewers watched the hour long Panorama investigation shown on BBC One last night. It was the highest audience for the current affairs series this year. But sadly Primark Ealing was busy as usual today. Viewers are shocked, but shoppers can't get enough.

Panorama proved Primark's ethical fashion claims aren't based in fact, but fantasy.
Clothes can't really be this cheap.

1 comment:

Kat said...

I was just wondering, is there a way of getting in touch with you?