It is fairly easy for shoppers to be unaware of their favorite stores’ secret allegiances and hidden practices until there is public backlash at a corporation due to its controversial or discriminatory actions. Though, in certain situations, that is still not enough to cause change; president of Urban Outfitters Richard Hayne openly donated money to a political campaign that supported anti-LGBT interests, and yet the public response was quite surprising, as many continued to shop regardless of the company’s less-than-savory sociopolitical ties.
While his donations to the campaign were not made with specific monetary ties to the Urban Outfitters brand, Hayne still showed his support for a cause that a number of shoppers in the Urban Outfitters demographic definitely would not agree with. The initial response included backlash from celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, comments via Twitter and other social media outlets, but no significant change in sales or attitude among the majority of customers.
Interestingly, this same reaction was found in similar cases, in particular the case of Dov Charney (CEO of American Apparel), who was charged with allegedly sexually harassing and abusing workers. There was not a dramatic turn from the brand because following the allegations, nor have many consumers appeared interested in researching the matter. Even the accusations of sweatshop labor being used by Victoria’s Secret, Gap, and J. Crew have not stopped consumers from shopping at their favorite stores. Even I will admit that after having read about Zara’s alleged sweatshop labor, I have continued to shop there.
This lack of observance on the consumers part (myself included) proves just how sales-driven the clothing industry has become. By looking less with our minds and more with our eyes and wallets, we are overlooking the silent horrors lying behind the facades of major corporations.
Shopping locally is one way to combat this problem and swing the pendulum in a more positive direction, while also supporting smaller businesses. The internet can also be a helpful tool. Taking the time to research brands and who we choose to buy from can only help us become more aware of who and what we are therefore supporting in doing so. If we are going to keep shopping (and we likely will), then we should shop smart, too.
David Bologna is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org