Primark can be said to be a phenomenon in the world where new fashion brands emerge almost every day. Since the 1970s when the first store was opened in Ireland, Primark has expanded significantly with 256 stores not only in the UK but also in Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Belgium and Austria. Extremely popular in England, Primark has established itself as a market leader, offering an affordable and fashionable range of clothes, shoes, accessories and home-wares.

The brand itself has become inseparable from the British culture with tourists from all over the world drawn to the famous flagship Oxford Street store everyday. However, as great as it sounds how many of us consider how they do it? A brand, which employs thousands of people, manages to open stores in the most prestigious cities and still earns billion in profits by selling dresses for twelve pounds?  Is it too good to be true?

As a result of the globalization in recent years many European and American companies placed their production in developing countries to reduce production cost. In some countries the minimal eight-hour day rate in the UK equates the monthly income. Thus, on the positive side employment is created in the areas with high unemployment rate, the countries government receives additional income, and we get cheaper clothing as a result. Primark has taken advantage of this idea and is well know for the place to go to for finding that bargain on trend dress or coat, its website it says:

‘Our key aim was to support factories in becoming better in their production and management techniques and encouraging them to align worker’s pay with productivity improvements to reach a living wage, which is enough to meet the basic needs of an adult and their family dependents, plus some discretionary income’

The retailers ‘devotion’ to its aims was highly reflected in new claims which reveal garment workers toil up to 84 hours a week are earning as little as nineteen pounds a month, which is less than half a living wage. Furthermore, its not just adults who are being exploited by the leading market retailer, it was also exposed that children as young as eleven were working in unacceptable working conditions sewing beads and embroidering dresses for Primark. The children’s working day consisted of coming to the refugee camp where electricity was so poor that they had to work in candle light for sixty pence a day.

After embarrassing revelation the company, which claimed that selling two-pound t-shirts is possible without compromising ethics, said they are making improvements. Including doubling audits and inspections of factories appointing an ethical director and more ethical trade managers and implementing a new online audit management system. However, Khorshed Alam, the Dhaka-based researcher behind the latest study and War On Want's Report Fashion Victims II said: ‘None of Primark’s claims – so-called ethical staff, training and audits – have made any difference to the workers' poverty’.

The claims that big companies are exploiting overseas workers aren’t new; brands such as Nike, New Look, and Apple have already been exposed. However, the claims about the inhumane working conditions, extremely low wages are usually outshined by the brilliant media campaigns to promote the brands, dodgy charitable activities and reports about soaring sales. So the question is where the corporate responsibility ends and personal one begins?

In society, where marketing techniques are being applied to children as young as three to turn them into the lifetime consumers, we live in a world where consuming means living. All of us on the western side of the world want things cheap and fast, but then we are the first to point out the third world people’s poverty and exploitation. The media coverage keeps exposing various companies and their sweatshops in Asia, but it does not seem that any kind of allegations would affect their profits. Primark not only was awarded as the UK high street retailer of the year, the major popularity of the store has been recently proved with upcoming opening of the second massive flagship store in the Oxford Street in London.

It is hardly believable that companies such as Primark will completely change its business ‘ethics’ until the higher governmental institutions will take some serious actions, however, all of us are free to make the choices and decide whether our money goes to the company which embraces their employees dehumanising business ethics fooling the public with their ‘big’ statements about sustainable business but in reality just taking advantaged of already deprived communities.


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