Workers in poor countries are being exploited to make the clothes we wear. But consumer demand is such that one already-cut-price brand, Kmart, has promised to reduce its prices by a fifth by moving its offshore production to cheaper factories. Rachel Clayton and Susan Edmunds investigate.
Mum-of-two Rachel O’Gorman stops into her local Kmart about once a week. “I could close my eyes and tell you where everything is,” she says.
“I really like the range of products they have. I can go to Kmart for just about anything.
“I know a child’s dress is going to be $17, onesies are $9. If you go to The Warehouse or Farmers sometimes they have specials and sometimes they don’t, but I kind of know the prices at Kmart.”
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Another shopper, Nikisha Lekasa, says she often goes in for one item and comes out with a trolley full. “It’s like a one-stop shop for me.”
Kmart played to the wallets of shoppers like O’Gorman and Lekasa when it announced its move to a factory in West Java, Indonesia, will cut the cost of 320 items on its shelves by 20 per cent.
The savings, according to Kmart boss Ian Bailey speaking on Australia’s A Current Affair program, will come from reduced shipping costs and cheaper production from the new mega-factory.
“It’s not the cheapest labour in the world, but what they do have is production on a huge scale,” he says.
A $10 T-shirt will drop to $8 by August.
O’Gorman was sceptical of the move and said she worried about who was making the clothes on Kmart’s racks.
“I’ve been following the media. I know they say that they are using good factories and things and [workers] were going to work for at least the minimum wage but I sometimes worry that it looks good on paper but when you think about it, it might not be that good. What is the minimum wage there?”