For years, I’ve been largely ignored or considered a bit haughty for refusing to shop at Primark. OK, so some of the reason I hate the place is because, for me, it resembles a badly-run jumble sale, full of screwed up jumpers stacked at crazy heights. Customers brush past and knock a pile over, they land on the floor, no-one even bats an eyelid, let alone pick them up. Is this the level of quality we now expect and accept for fashion – knowing that we can just go and buy another when it gets a bit shrunken in the wash? (And having bought a couple of cardigans there in the past, they certainly do!) Or is it just the lure of the £2 price tag for a cute jumper which just can’t be resisted regardless of quality?
Either way, there’s a clear logic that should tell us all that this is not the way it should be. £1.99 for a women’s top can’t be right when you will be hard pushed to buy a metre of cotton for less than £2.00. Do people even think about this? Do people even care?
The last few days have highlighted the conditions Primark workers are exposed to but, for me, it shouldn’t take a catastrophe of this extent to make people stop and think about their shopping habits. In the food industry, unscrupulous supermarkets have traded prices so low that we can buy a whole chicken at about the same price as one of Primark’s vest tops. Again, where is the logic that for a farmer to raise, care for, slaughter and process a whole chicken could cost less than a pretty cheap bottle of wine? So what’s the mentality here?
Modern life seems to have instigated and promoted a false sense of entitlement in society. People didn’t used to be able to afford new clothes on a weekly basis. They would make their own. It’s now cheaper to shop from supermarkets than buy that fabric and create your own designs, yet thankfully, more people seem to be doing so. Sense of entitlement makes us think that we should be able to eat roast chicken and steak every night of the week, whereas historically, it was a Sunday treat which was then extended over the week from clever use of leftovers. Entitlement makes us think we need a foreign holiday, new car, flatscreen TV and so on, then competition kicks in which creates even more resentment and pressure to spend, spend, spend. So stores like Primark (and many others) continue to thrive regardless of their ethical standards. (This website is useful to see who the best/worst are when it comes to ethical clothing http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/clothing/clothesshops.aspx)
Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of over-spending at times. I fall into the trap just as much as others because all around us, we are constantly bombarded with imagery that promotes the theory that “things” make us happy. And it’s hard to break that habit, especially when you see people around you, seemingly, with it all. But let’s try, now and again, to shift the attention from us to someone else. Let’s think about those people in Bangladesh who probably couldn’t afford one Primark cotton top let alone 4 in one shopping trip.