Recently it has become public knowledge that Boohoo is at the centre of another scandal related to clothes manufacturing. This time it is here in the UK, where workers in Leicester have their workers’ rights abused and the highest wage, they could earn was £5.
During lockdown, Boohoo’s sales were high, and they were releasing new clothes almost daily, or having sales everyday with either 70% off all stock or 50% off all dresses. By clearing out all of their old stock with these huge sales to make room for this new lockdown stock. A few weeks after this happened, the brand was proud to announce that they had survived the first week they could have been in crisis and April sales had skyrocketed from the previous year. A company with pre-tax profits like £92.2 million should have the ability to more agile and flexible than their competitors-as well as being able to pay their workers fair wages.
Carol Kane, the co-founder and executive director, had spoken about how “we’ve made sure we have had appropriate inventory for working from home and comfy items by working with our supply base to swap inventory around.” This meant that Boohoo had to rely on their suppliers in places such as Leicester who are viewed as ‘the bedrock of Boohoo’s success’ to some, there are figures that would suggest 75-80% of garments being made in the city and sold to Boohoo.
Despite the UK being on lockdown, garment workers in Leicester are the ones to thank for Boohoo’s rapid success. However, British health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced Leicester was placed under their own local lockdown due to the rates of coronavirus in the community; it has been implied that it could be potentially due to the government failing to provide relevant data to local authorities, overcrowding in small houses and communicating to the large non-English speaking communities. The Leicester garment industry has always been criticised for awful working conditions and low pay, even before the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite Boohoo claiming that production lines were still flexible, whilst factory bosses were dismissing any suggestions that problems were arising. Since these statements the health and safety executive had contacted 17 different factories, actively investigating 3 and taking action against 1.
Boohoo was founded in 2006 and since then there have been claims of modern slavery, illegally low wages, VAT fraud and a lack of inadequate safety measures, in both international factories and Leicester factories. Despite the government been refusing to condone the actions of Boohoo in Leicester and labelling them a ‘national shame’, Leicester has stuck with Boohoo and have helped Boohoo sales increase rapidly. It is not all down to geography as “there is simply no way that they can be buying these things at the prices that they are and getting them at the pace they are.” There have also been claims that factories in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have better working conditions than the ones in Leicester.
Now there needs to be a stronger focus into what happened and how we can resolve it to make sure it never happens again.