Boohoo's reputation craters after modern slavery allegations

Amelia BrophyHead of Data Products, UK
July 15, 2020, 10:54 AM UTC

BrandIndex scores tumble in the wake of a Sunday Times investigation into “sweatshop” conditions in its Leicester factory

Boohoo was at the centre of a media firestorm recently following reports from The Sunday Times that suppliers in Leicester have been paying workers as little as £3.50 an hour. That the modern slavery scandal has had an impact on public perceptions of the company is perhaps unsurprising, but YouGov BrandIndex data reveals the scale of the damage done in the days following the story’s publication.

Boohoo’s buzz scores, which measure whether consumers have heard anything positive or negative about a brand in the last fortnight, hovered between mildly positive and slightly negative before the report went live – sitting at +2. on July 1st. But these scores became firmly negative on the day the Sunday Times story broke, and by July 9th, they had spread far enough that Buzz scores fell to -19.

Beyond negative headlines, the report has done real damage to Boohoo’s reputation scores – which again, were slightly positive before the modern slavery story was published. On July 5th, scores fell to -3, and by July 9, they plummeted to -11.

It’s a sharp decline in public perception, and one that’s especially pronounced among female shoppers – who were more likely to report hearing negative news about Boohoo in the past fortnight than the UK average. Given that female shoppers are a key market for the brand, this may well have a significant effect on its commercial fortunes.

Boohoo will also worry about a potential backlash brewing among younger shoppers: another core demographic. Previous YouGov data showed a quarter of Brits only buy from companies that reflect their ethics and values (rising to a third of those aged 18 to 24. While the story is still developing and more information could still come to light, the decline in Buzz and Reputation scores shows the allegations have already had sufficient cut through among British consumers – and could have a lasting impact among its most important audiences.

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