Shoppping Stigmas: Do Labels Decieve Us?

Will Primarni fans be swapping these bags…

High street giant Primark is to open up concessions in Selfridges starting with Birmigham’s Bullring at the start of November and continuing with Manchester’s Exchange Square on the 19th. The concessions will be in Menswear and feature 100 items of clothing and accessories, some designs will be exclusive to Selfridges. The collection is said to be aimed at illustrating Primark’s fashion forward clothing with true value. At the time of press there were no plans for them to extend the collection to any other Selfridges stores or extend to women’s wear.

Hmmmm is what I thought, hmmmm indeed. So Primark is continuing its plan for world domination, Selfridges would like a slice of the fat cat pie. But with sales up 20% this year (according to fashion united) Selfridges is not exactly getting out its begging bowl. The question then arises why they would want to use such a tactic? Fair enough Selfridges is mainly seen as a luxury retailer, but it has been growing its High Street departments over the years, stocking Topshop and Warehouse, but on a separate floor. I have to admit I was shocked last year to see Cos appear in the midst of the designer ladies wear, surely it should be on the high street floor?

It reminds me of the strange phenomenon that always happens to me when abroad. When I walk around shopping malls filled with clothes and accessories but with labels I am not familiar with and prices I do not understand. As a shopper of the world I am no longer baffled by dollars and euros but I remember the time I first went to Spain and I had to sit and work out every single price with a currency converter. Prices are one thing but not recognising brands is quite another, it made me feel very alien.

With out recognised brands how did I know what was good?

We use brand association to reassure and familiarise ourselves with what we are buying. Good old M&S for faithful knits, Zara for on trend pieces, Joseph for quality leather and sheepskin, even Aldi for cheap beans. Basically we know what to expect from shops because of their branding, without this knowledge it is down to ourselves to make the judgements.

… for Selfridges yellow ones?

This is stranger than it seems, because we are so used to branding we don’t realise we have these preconceptions. Case in point a few years ago I sold a pair of shoes on eBay. They were a lovely pair of canvas summer shoes which I had bought in Primark, not tried on, they were too tight, I couldn’t find the reciept to return so stuck them with some other things up for sale. Without thinking anything of it I had used a yellow Selfridges carrier bag as a clean back drop for all my photos. The shoes sold and I posted them off. Only to be met with an irate email that the shoes were not from Selfridges but Primark – as I had clearly put in the listing – but the buyer had been so blindsided by the Selfridges brand she hadn’t bothered to read the details.

Another example is when I was in Florida for a conference, my friends and I of course took the chance to hit the nearest mall. Wondering around not knowing any of the shops meant I went into EVERY shop. This was my first experience of Forever 21. I was thrilled to find some quirky jewellery and a lovely black and white top for really cheap prices. Had I know F21 was the US equivalent of New Look, I wouldn’t have even set foot in the shop due to my inbuilt snobbery on discount high street brands. I had the opposite problem in Anthropology when I found a lovely mac, but not recognising the brand name I really had to closely examine the product before I could decide if it was worth its $300 price tag. Had I been in the UK I could have easily bought the mac had it been from Reiss for example, I know they are a high- end high st brand, knowing this means I can trust them right?

Not necessarily, sometimes I think our preconceptions can hinder us. I have paid ┬ú50 for a Zara blouse – it is the best quality for its low prices my head tells me. The loose threads and missing button a week later shows this is not always the case. We have become lazy. So perhaps stocking Primark in Selfridges has a deeper purpose, if you aren’t necessarily expecting everything you buy from there to fall to pieces, if it is displayed with higher end products, will your perceptions of the brand change? I hold my hands up, I have bought some fantastic quality pieces from Primark, some I have had for some years. Others I wouldn’t even pick up of f the rail for fear it would disintegrate in my hands.

My point is, don’t let branding fool you, no matter where you are shopping always check the quality and give places you wouldn’t usually shop a chance. As for the Primark and Selfridges experience I will reserve judgement until I have seen it for myself.


What do you think of Selfridges stocking Primark?

Do you have preconcieved ideas of brands?

Have you ever surprised yourself by challenging your thoughts on a brand?

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14 thoughts on “Shoppping Stigmas: Do Labels Decieve Us?

  1. Great post Pearl, I have felt that feeling of dislocation and not trusting yourself when shopping abroad – although I am now better at judging material and deciding for myself whether things are well made. I do think a Selfridges / Primark collab is VERY odd though, and will damage the Selfridges brand. I do get irritated by the persistence of the ‘Primarni’ joke as well, I like a bargain sure, but I HATE paying for anything which falls apart after a couple of washes – that’s not a bargain but a fiver wasted.

  2. I go into all sorts of shops, from the local market to designer brands and check seams etc’ before I buy. I will pay what it’s worth: whether ┬ú300 for a nice coat or 50p for a topshop top in a charity shop. As a result, I have been pleasantly surprised by items I have found in quite cheap shops, but also- surprisingly often- rather appalled by rubbish that had merely had a designer or top-end-high-street label sewn into it to justify a big price tag. I check and try on. It’s one of the reasons why I only buy cautiously online, you can’t tug a seam or check a hem as you can in the shop.

    • Yeah I was surprised there wasn’t much of a press release only quotes from Primark too. I also was surprised that they didn’t do it in London like they usually do with everything new, do you think they were a bit embarrassed?

  3. I don’t think that brand/quality expectations are written in stone these days. So called higher end high street names can produce items much worse than Primark and I’ve just about given up on most middle range stores such as M&S because the quality is so low for the price. I sometimes buy items from Primark for the fabric to make into something else.

  4. I have never bought anything in Primark and I don’t think because they are stocked in Selfridges that would change my perception of this brand. Unless they can provide some sort of evidence to suggest they have an ethical supply chain I am really not that interested. It is true though, we can be very strongly influenced by the positive and negatives of brands. Think about something like crocs, I probably would never buy anything from this brand even if was the most amazing pair of heels.

  5. As I increasingly buy more clothes the first thing alongside do I need it or not, is, is the quilty worth the price? Yesterday I was so in love with a dress from COS I nearly spend £60 on a dress yes I could wear it countless of times but remembering how bad of quality my last 2 purchases was I passed. £60 better off.

    On the other hand I’d happily let Primark disapear off our highstreet, although I dont think all their peices are bad quality. I’ve never bought a piece of clothing I’ve kept for longer than a year nor fell in love with. The partnership really actualy baffles me.

  6. I have had to re-assess my brand loyalties in the three years since I moved from a major city to a desert mining town. I still buy a lot of my favourites online, but I now mix them with say, an $8 polo from Kmart. (I have these in heaps of colours and wear them more than I ever expected to). My pet hate is buying things – no matter at what price point – that fall apart or go to pieces after only a wear or two.

  7. Pingback: Vintage Tips, Tutorials and Links Round-Up | Penny Dreadful Vintage

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