Fast-fashion giant Boohoo faces scrutiny as BBC Panorama uncovers that the retailer placed “Made in the UK” labels on potentially thousands of garments that were, in fact, manufactured in South Asia. The mislabelling occurred at Boohoo’s flagship factory, Thurmaston Lane in Leicester, impacting up to one in 250 of the company’s global garment supply between January and October 2023. Boohoo, currently contemplating the closure of the Leicester factory, attributed the incorrect labels to a misinterpretation of labelling rules.
The BBC estimates that hundreds of thousands of garments might have been wrongly labelled, with plain T-shirts and hoodies being affected. Boohoo admitted to the error, deeming it an isolated incident resulting from human error. The garments, shipped from South Asian countries, including Pakistan, were processed at Boohoo’s Leicester factory, where they underwent printing.
Chris Grayer, former head of supplier ethical compliance at Next, remarked that the mislabelling indicated a “significant failure of inspection” and noted that, in his previous role, garments would have been recalled or stopped from sale in such a scenario. Sylvia Rook from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute emphasised that the replacement of country-of-origin labels with “Made in the UK” labels could potentially mislead consumers.
Boohoo’s Leicester factory, operational for two years, was positioned as a UK manufacturing centre of excellence, focusing on end-to-end garment production. The proposed closure of Thurmaston Lane has raised concerns, with critics suggesting it signifies the challenges of sustaining the fast and cheap fashion model outside countries with low wages and poor social protection. Boohoo, in a consultation period with workers regarding the site’s future, stressed the need to enhance efficiency, productivity, and overall business strength.
The revelations about mislabelling add another layer to Boohoo’s recent challenges, as the company faces ongoing discussions about the future of its Leicester factory and wider scrutiny over ethical and environmental practices in the fast-fashion industry.