Blog: Primark reacts to TV onslaught

Joe Ayling | 16 June 2008

Bargain fashion firm Primark has been forced onto the ethical offensive in reaction to recent UK television documentaries about cheap labour.

The retailer's ethics came to a head today when it ended business with three Indian suppliers following a company investigation arising from BBC findings.

Primark's investigation found that the factories had sub-contracted embroidery and sequin work on a small number of designs to unapproved sub-contractors, which involved home working and instances of child labour.

According to the BBC, it was the broadcaster's Panorama programme that alerted Primark to the problems - having carried out a six-month investigation.

However, fashion has been the focus of a number of other TV programmes in recent months as questions continue to be asked about the ethics of producing cheap clothes.

The well-publicised BBC series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts showed six young fashion addicts experiencing life as factory workers in India, and is due to be followed up by a Channel 4 documentary called "The Devil Wears Primark".

The Channel 4 documentary was due to start earlier this month, and advertised to viewers before later being pulled from the running order.

Primark seems to have taken the brunt of such sourcing debates, perhaps due to its low prices and high exposure (it became the UK's second largest clothing retailer last year), although the likes of Topshop and H&M hardly came off unscathed either.

What stood out to just-style in today's news though was a significant attempt by Primark to clear things up, and defend the way it does business, in particular the following comments: "Primark’s prices are low because we don’t overcharge our customers.

"Most of our clothes are bought from the same factories as other fashion retailers and people producing them are paid exactly the same whatever the label and whatever the price in the shop.

"We are able to offer good value and good quality because of low mark-ups and big volumes. We use simple designs, our overhead costs are extremely low and we don’t run expensive advertising campaigns."

In short, the company is looking to extinguish any misconceptions that the devil would choose Primark over any other fast fashion retailer just because it is cheap.

By Joe Ayling, news editor

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