Is It Wrong To Shop At Primark?

Primark is hot. The nation's lowest-rent fashion outlet, a brand that has dedicated itself to the peddling of garments of gob smacking cheapness since 1969, is now officially king of the High Street. Late last week its position at the top of the retail ladder was confirmed, with the store reporting a20% increase in sales with profits of £252 millionthis year alone.With unemployment on the rise, and many of us facing uncertain futures, it’s no wonder shoppers are turning to ‘value retailers’ such as TK Maxx, Heatons and Tesco for the latest fashions at a low, low price. Recession is certainly driving shoppers into the arms of Primark in particular , with sales at the value fashion chain accelerating dramatically over the last few months.Primark hasn't been forcefully marketed, cleverly advertised or smartly reinvented but that hasn’t stopped the Irish retailer becoming one of the most popular fashion brands around. Call it Cheap Chic or Thrift Luxe or whatever you like, the basic notion is this: it's suddenly cool to be cheap. The Beckham-inspired, label-loving, conspicuous consumption of the late-1990s is over.  It’s never been more fashionable to be thrifty.Its giddy rise has been the result of word-of-mouth endorsement and nothing else. The nation's fashion editors report that the store has become noticeably better at imitating catwalk designs over the last couple of seasons and at getting them on to their shop floor often before the designers actually get the originals into their boutiques.Primark’s success story contrasts sharply with fashion sales at rival retailers - Marks & Spencer and Debenhams have both seen clothing sales radically decline over the past year. But Primark is still on the up, despite investigations into its use of cheap labour and claims that some of its suppliers are little better than sweatshops.Earlier this month, War on Want launched a scathing attack on the High Street chain saying it was "booming in the recession by keeping clothes prices so low at a terrible cost to its garment workers' living standards". It claims that Bangladeshi workers making clothes for Primarkreceive an average of under £20 a month – less than half a living wage – and live in dire conditions. According the Guardian newspaper, a spokesperson for Primarksuggested the brand was being unfairly singled out by War on Want. It said 95% of its suppliers provided clothing for other fashion chains and insisted that its prices were lower than rivals' because it purchased huge volumes, used lower mark-ups and did not advertise.On its website Primark said it is "committed to providing the best possible value for our customers, but not at the expense of the people who make our products". And in the last year, the company said it doubled the number of audits across the factories of suppliers, appointed a director of ethical trade and regional ethical trade managers. It has also trained its buyers, senior personnel and suppliers in ethical trading.Consumers should pay more for their clothes, campaigners argue, to ensure that overseas workers manufacturing clothes for high street outlets earn a fair wage and can ultimately be lifted out of poverty. 


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36-40, F
Feb 10, 2010