Boohoo, BLM and the price of virtue signalling

9 July 2020

1:25 AM

9 July 2020

1:25 AM

If companies were judged on what they said rather than what they did, business would be booming for Boohoo. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the fashion firm was saying all the right things about what it would do to make the world a better place. ‘We are louder together. Say his name. #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter’ Boohoo told its followers on Instagram.

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Boohoo wasn’t finished there. In a follow-up post, the company assured its customers: ‘We are committed to use our influence as a brand and community to help your voices be heard’.

‘At Boohoo we will no longer just be doing our thing,’ the company said. ‘We will be doing better. We see you, we hear you and we, throughout all of this and beyond will stand with you’.

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Boohoo also offered its followers on Instagram suggestions for ‘5 black-owned businesses you need on your radar’. One of the most-liked responses to this post was from an unimpressed customer: ‘Am I the only one who thinks this is utterly ridiculous? It shouldn’t matter what ‘race-owned’ businesses you buy from, as long as you’re happy with the product, then who cares!?’

But now, Boohoo has far more than just one disgruntled customer to worry about. A report in the Sunday Times alleged that workers at a Leicester factory that supplied clothes to Boohoo were underpaid. It was also alleged that little or no protection was given to workers to protect them from coronavirus. The report also claimed that the factory was still operating during the lockdown in Leicester.

The backlash to these allegations was swift. A new hashtag is now trending: #boycottboohoo. The social media influencers and models that Boohoo relies on to peddle its clothes have distanced themselves from the company. Next and Asos have dropped Boohoo goods. And the company’s share price has tanked. So far today, it has lost 23 per cent of its value; this week alone, the price of a share in Boohoo has halved.

Before the allegations, business had been booming for an online retailer that was largely unaffected by the shutting down of the high street. The firm said in June that it expected sales to rise by a quarter. Instead, these allegations could mean curtains for a business which was recently valued at £5bn.

As a result, Boohoo is now trying a new social media strategy: begging for forgiveness.

Screen_Shot_2020-07-08_at_16.06.24.pngBoohoo Instagram

Will this be enough to save Boohoo? Only time will tell. But for other businesses keen to tout their virtue, the old saying rings true: actions speak louder than words.

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