Bad news for Sports Direct this week, plus more bad news for anyone who buys cheap clothes

Good PR

Talking T-shirt
Most people are guilty of buying clothes that they know were probably made in some kind of sweatshop somewhere in the world. Occasionally, we see PR stunts trying to highlight this and make shoppers aware of where the products they buy are made.

Remember those mysterious “cry for help” labels and notes that kept being found in Primark clothes by customers? Although the retailer came out and said it was just a hoax and the labels hadn’t been sewn on by factory workers, whoever was behind it clearly wanted to make people think twice about the clothes they were buying.

That’s exactly what Fashion Revolution, an organisation which campaigns to make people aware of the conditions cheap clothes are made in, has managed to do in its latest stunt.

A T-shirt vending machine was set up in the busy centre of Berlin which aimed to remind people of the real price of discount clothes. On approaching the machine, passersby could see that the vending machine was offering T-shirts for just 2 Euros (that’s around £1.40 in GBP).

However, those trying to buy a T-shirt were first shown a video about a young girl named Manisha who is one of millions of people working up to 16 hours a day in sweatshops, earning as little as a measly 9p an hour. After they’d watched the video, they were asked if they still wanted to buy the T-shirt, or if they wanted to donate the money to charity instead.

Apparently, everyone chose to donate their money once they’d watched the video instead of buying the T-shirt. The stunt was created for Fashion Revolution Day 2015, which took place on 24 April. I’ve so far seen coverage for this on the likes of the Metro, Daily Mirror and AOL websites.

You can watch the video of the social experiment here:

Bad PR

Mean Sports Direct
This week, an episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches highlighted Sports Direct’s treatment of customers and staff ... and it wasn’t pretty! The undercover investigation of the retailer, which is owned by Mike Ashley, revealed how employees are sometimes named and shamed at the Shirebrook depot for not working fast enough.

The “six strikes and you’re out” policy for disciplinary action at the same depot may sound fair enough at first glance, but not when it was shown that these strikes could be for anything from spending too long on a toilet break, to too much chatting to colleagues and sick days. Employees were therefore under the impression that they could lose their jobs at any moment. In fact, only 300 of the staff at the company’s headquarters have secure jobs and the other three quarters have zero-hour contracts which don’t give them a leg to stand on where unfair dismissal is concerned.

The brand’s sketchy business practices were also brought to the fore by the documentary, which revealed that the retailer’s seemingly never-ending “closing-down” sales are somewhat misleading; with signs put up on storefronts whenever a shop could be set to undergo refurbishment or just move a few doors down to a new unit.

Its dodgy discounting tricks were also highlighted in the episode, with the cut prices labelled as misleading due to the fact the items in question were never even sold at the higher price.

Sports Direct claims that Channel 4 didn’t give any kind of chance for the retailer to comment or defend itself. The company has 400 stores across the UK and Mike Ashley is a billionaire whose worth is ten times that of the Queen.

This kind of coverage, especially of the broadcast kind, is very damaging for a brand and plenty of other media outlets have written reviews of the episode, exposing the retailer’s misdemeanours to an even wider audience.

Shannon Haigh, 10 Yetis, @ShazzaYeti on Twitter

Seen any good or bad PR recently, you know what to do, @10Yetis on Twitter or on email.

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