The beautiful former Post Office of Karlsruhe is now called Post Galerie, one of the impressive shopping malls in the city. Karlsruhe has several shopping malls and shopping streets but this stately building beckoned me to come inside. At the entrance lobby of the shopping centre is the big European clothing retail chain called Primark.
The former Post Office of Karlsruhe (Deutsche Bundespost) is now a shopping mall called Post Galerie on Kaiserstrasse.
This is what you see when you enter. The Irish-British Primark has a very good location in the shopping mall. The retailing 'cheap high fashion' powerhouse will soon expand to the US.
I knew Primark but only by name. The retail shop offers very cheap prices they say, however, I never really had any experience whatsoever because I have never shopped at Primark. Not until yesterday. The clothing company also has had its own share of unfortunate media publicity. The ongoing scandal of large fashion retail chains with the textile industry in Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, suggesting horrible sweatshop conditions and allegations of forced labour.
Well yesterday, I had my first ever fashion mainstream shopping shock in my life. I mean yes, I have heard of Primark mixing high fashion with cheap pricing in the mainstream fashion industry, but I have never really gotten the grip of its gravity until this visit in Karlsruhe. Whilst walking around the retail shop, I was in one of those—‘Where have I been all these years?!’ moments.
So naturally as a human being with functioning senses, I got carried away and bought a few stuff. When one is confronted with high fashion (they have classic design pieces) with prices this dirt cheap, one cannot help but fall into emotional buying. Two long sleeve blouses, two long sleeve vests, one dress, a pair of leather gloves, 3 pairs of stockings and a pair of soft slippers, all for just 68 Euros.
A LITTLE WARDROBE FOR JUST 68 EUROS!!!
I normally buy one blouse for 68 Euros. But instead, for 68 Euros I was able to buy a little wardrobe that could have cost me between 350-450 Euros. Is this insanity or please tell me what it is?
I love retail sales and I normally would be ecstatic to snag good items at very low prices. However, the stuff I bought at Primark were not on sale, they were tagged with normal prices. I don’t know really but the cheap pricing bothered me a bit, and I thought long and hard about it during the train ride back to the Netherlands.
Why is Primark so damn cheap?! I thought H&M was ridiculously cheap already, but Primark beats H&M for half the price. It is bordering ridiculousness or perhaps I just need to get used to having a giant fast-fashion retail chain selling long sleeve vests for 10 Euros?
So I went online and googled Primark. The retailing powerhouse gave a statement that their prices came from a combination of volume procurement strategy and the rigid management of their supply chain.
OK so they are good at what they do, but I cannot help calculate in my mind the whole supply chain’s tier of profit and loss, for Primark, for the manufacturers, for the raw material suppliers and for the labourers. Globalisation brought improvement and possibilities to many people and companies, but when you sell your stuff really cheap, it brings out questions into the spotlight as well. I am sure that someone at the end of the chain pays the price for it. One thing for sure, it is not the consumers such as you and me.
There is a difference as well between buying cheap clothing at markets in town. Most of the vendors are small time entrepreneurs doing their best at making a living. But when a large retail chain sells cheap clothing, it sends the whole textile-clothing industry into a different angle. Because large companies are backed up by rich investors and not some mom and pop type of shop owners. Because rich investors have the power to command and demand, at their beck and call. Because it is so easy to exploit, rather unintentionally and indirectly of course, the other end of the supply chain. Because there is what we call ethics that is the true sanity of humanity.
There must be a global fashion-textile producing intergovernmental regulatory body to facilitate and oversee compliance to safety on the workplace, setting pricing standards, human rights, fair compensation of labourers, etc... and its impact on the industry. The oil industry has OPEC and the sugar industry has ISO for example.
Anyway, this whole shopping spree at Primark yesterday left a bitter taste in my mouth. I will wear the clothes because I paid for it, but all this high fashion cheap pricing has opened a can of worms and made me think twice shopping at large cheap retail powerhouses.
Trams stopping on and passing through Kaiserstrasse in front of the Post Galerie.
Travel Period: January 2015
Destination: Karlsruhe (Baden-Wurttemberg), Germany
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