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Consumers want shops to change; not to change the way they shop

The public say they want to see change in the industry but aren’t willing to change their shopping habits - so how should the industry react?

An overwhelming number of shoppers on Oxford Street told Drapers they would continue shopping at value retailers, despite being aware of the tragedy in Bangladesh. Even the protest taking place this weekend appears not to have put people off shopping for fast fashion.

Some consumers expressed concerns about factory conditions, with a handful even saying they were “disgusted” what they had seen.

But when it came to changing their shopping habits, they could not make the leap, with many blaming their own financial situation and the need for new clothes.

The consensus appeared to be that consumers want shops to change but don’t want to change the way they shop. This means that change has to come from within the industry itself.

There is a ray of hope for those looking at what to do next.

When asked if they would be prepared to pay more for their clothing in exchange for the guarantee of high ethical standards in factories abroad many said yes.

Campaign groups claim that the impact of improving ethical standards will be a matter of a few pence on high volume garments such as T-shirts. The Accord is expected to cost each retailer $2.5m (£1.64m) over five years - $500,000 (£331,000) a year, an amount which can be easily absorbed by businesses like Primark, which reported adjusted operating profits of £238m just a day before the Rana Plaza collapsed.

Primark has done a good job in reacting to the tragedy, offering not only compensation for its own employees but also short term aid to all workers, as a month on it has still proved difficult to establish which businesses people actually worked for. But prevention is surely better than cure.

Shoppers may not be running for the hills yet, but any further tragedies could drive people away. Retailers should act before push comes to shove if they want to protect their margins - and their reputation - in the long run.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Please stop blaming the consumer/retailer. What about the factory owners, the factory inspectors and the governments .
    Corruption is rife in these countries and believe me it won't change. There are plenty of factories in the U.K that are sweat shops failing health and saftey .
    Primark.,New Look etc all packed on Saturday "The public gets what the public wants" but praise to those retailers for their help in dealing with the situation!

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  • Surely the point is that the retailers are the ones with power to make the change?

    The factory owners are squeezing costs and creating poor working conditions because the retailers want everything cheap and they are not enforcing the rules around working safety.

    It's a shame the public doesn't care but not particularly surprising I suppose.

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