If this weekend’s news reports are anything to go by then 2011 looks set to be The Year That Primark Died. Due to a complex combination of economical and global setbacks, cheap clothes are set to become a lot less cheap. And the culprit is the stuff that 15-20% of all our clothes are made from; cotton.
Spending cuts, higher overheads for manufacturers and an increase in demand versus supply have been threatening to push garment prices up for some time now. But the crux of the problem, it seems, has been exacerbated by the recent floods in Pakistan, which have all but wiped out cotton crops; the catalyst in a chain of pre-existing problems which spell disaster for the wholesale prices we’re used to paying.
The increase in VAT to 20% next year is also an impending threat to throwaway fashions, of which Primark is undeniably the champion.
Incredibly, statistics released by the budget chain recently indicate that sales have already started tailing off this year (a sentiment that’s clearly not reflected in the long queues I witness at the tills each time I visit); so perhaps the wind-down has already begun.
Some critics might agree, having argued that we’ve simply had it too good for too long. In other words, we should have heeded the warnings about cheap clothes being too good to be true months ago.
So is this really the end of the outfit-under-£10 era that so many of us have come to rely on? I’m not entirely convinced that this heralds The End for Primark and the like as we know it. Whilst the experts are predicting that cheaper stores will be hit harder than high-end ones next year, fortunately Primark prices are so cheap already that an extra pound or two here and there shouldn’t add up too dramatically. And even so, it’ll still win the price war with the many more expensive shops facing the same hikes.
I for one will still make my ritual visits. Well, all in the name of research…