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[8 comments]

Fashion sites should offer 'Made In' info just like stores

July 30, 2014

Pure play e-tailers typically have an overhead advantage over their physical store competitors. They have also held an edge when it comes to sales tax collection, although groups such as the Main Street Fairness Coalition have called on lawmakers to pass legislation addressing the disparity. Now, comes an op-ed piece on The Business of Fashion website calling on online fashion sites to disclose where clothing is made to level the playing field with physical stores that have that information on every clothing label they sell.

The piece, written by Madelin Newman, a freelance writer based in Australia, claims that in the wake of tragedies such as the building collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that killed 1,132 garment workers last year, consumers should have access to country of origin information online. This, she maintains, would help consumers make the same type of informed buying decisions online that they do in stores.

Ms. Newman offered People Tree, a seller of sustainable and Fair Trade fashion merchandise, which has a "How It's Made" section on its site, as an example for others to follow.

"We think it does positively impact sales and we're working now to add even more information about how our products are made to our website," Sara Brinton, digital marketing and e-commerce manager for People Tree, told Ms. Newman.

Discussion Questions:

How common do you think it is for consumers to look at apparel country of origin labels in stores? Should fashion e-commerce sites have to disclose country of origin information similarly to clothing on store racks?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Do you agree or disagree that fashion e-commerce sites should disclose country of origin information similarly to clothing on store racks?

Comments:

Short but sweet answer on this one. If consumers don't look at the labels, they really should. In any case, country of origin should indeed be displayed as a product attribute—everywhere.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

I'm with Paula on this one. Yes, origins should be noted and considered in the purchase. This is a much more important part of the label than the designer name, IMHO.

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Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

There is no fool like a bold fool. Retailers demanding restrictions on trade simply because they can not or, in fact, will not directly compete will live to regret their mistakes. The best way to compete it to learn and build on the correct playing field. Retailers of any kind sell and trade services and stuff for a profit. This is the only common practice among them all. E-commerce allows for global trade without a physical presence. At the present, time the benefits for e-tail include some practice and procedures now lost to brick-and-mortar traders. So why not find a way to participate instead of demanding an end to the freedoms afforded with this business type? The winners for the scenario described are lawmakers and lawyers, while businesses and the consumer lose again.

'gjarnoldjr'

I surmise that the motivation for requiring country of origin labels is backed by those who feel strongest about fair trade and protection of workers; but just because the label says "Made In India," would that be an indictment of all merchandise made in India? I look at country of origin labels because I like to know the fabric, and I have found that IDENTICAL merchandise, made in two different countries, is frequently better quality from one of the countries than the other.

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Naomi K. Shapiro, Strategic Market Communications, Upstream Commerce

I'm not sure what to make of this. Does the average customer know enough to make a judgement about clothing produced in Viet Nam, or Bangladesh, or Pakistan? I think the only clear winner here would be clothing manufacturers who can affix a Made In The USA label.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Of course they should. But do consumers look at COO? From my experience, I would say mostly "not." Fast fashion consumer? Forget about it. Ralph Lauren's customer? Probably. Think about it this way: Walmart is the #1 purveyor of goods in just about every category. Do you think people are looking at the COO on their goods?

Reminds me of food labeling: the only people that look at ingredients are people that care about eating healthy.

Regardless, the information should be available to all.

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Lee Peterson, EVP Creative Services, WD Partners

I always look at the labels before buying, but I doubt this is common practice. If it was a concern to that majority of consumers, they would be demanding the information.

For all the clothing I've bought online, the fabric content and where it has been made is disclosed. Of course, this is from American based companies.

'RetailRetell'

Ms Newman's approach, while well intentioned, it's a rather simplistic and could ultimately hurt those she's trying to protect.

Not all manufacturers in a particular country are all bad or good. Rather it's a case by case situation and buyer should be wary of online goods if they are not familiar with retailers' practices.

Listing the country of origin would only be a cosmetic fix, a perception issue. Tragedies like the one in Bangladesh need to be addressed with a different and more effective method such as compliance requirements, political trade restrictions, and other enforceable edicts.

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Carlos Arámbula, Managing Partner, MarcasUSA LLC

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