Primark is set to open its first North American store in Boston, Massachusetts in 2015. But what does that mean for Americans?
It’s hard to describe how popular Primark is in Europe. It’s pretty much overtaken the high streets in the UK and has created super-cheap trendy clothes for the masses. America will soon experience fashionable dresses for $10, trousers for $7, shirts for $9 if the exchange rate sticks.
All good news, right? Well not quite. The company is not without controversy. Some say the company forces out competitors in the high street (shopping centers in America) due to their standard prices being well below wholesale costs. Jobs are lost in the smaller chains; independents, shops are left empty.
There are also issues with the labour involved in making the products. Although Primark is often accused of “sweatshop conditions” in their factories, Primark disputes this. I sometimes do get a ping of guilt when I purchase a five quid jumper from there (it could have been the blinking LED Christmas tree on the front.)
Primark will have less troubles in the USA over these issues, however, due to two reasons. Firstly, unlike Britain, most Americans do not see a problem with a business being so competitive it kills competition. That’s life. Move on. Empty malls? It’s sad, but it’s okay. Leave it. Build a new one nearby. Brits tend to regenerate areas due to lack of space. America is vast. You can simply move to a different part of town. I see that all the time over here.
And secondly, social justice issues do not play strongly to middle Americans. They care, of course, but there is nowhere near the same level of concern as Europe. Some states like California do have far more regulatory rules, very similar to Europe with checks and balances with issues involving worker rights and environmentalism. They might just run into troubles if stories of poor working conditions for the people making the garments start to appear.
But, for now, this is good news for American consumers who are strapped for cash. Ignore the soon to be messy aisles… long queues for the changing rooms and the general chaos of the place. Massachusetts, you better get ready.