Boohoo is being taken to task over what consumers claim is unsavory business over its product labeling and prices.
A BBC report reveals what appears to be a pervasive issue with overlap in product offerings between brands, which share the same suppliers. This has resulted in Boohoo’s suite of labels, which includes Karen Millen, Coast, Dorothy Perkins, Nasty Gal, PrettyLittleThing, Oasis and Warehouse, selling some of the same products at drastically varying price points—an issue that the fast-fashion giant is now investigating.
Last week, BBC reported that Boohoo brands Dorothy Perkins and Coast sold the same quilted puffer jacket with a fur hood through each of their separate channels, but Coast’s version cost 34 pounds (about $47) more.
The issue was discovered when BBC journalist Jennifer Meierhans and her friend, Lucy Burn, each happened to purchase the item from different stores. What’s more, the women noted, Dorothy Perkins’ branding appeared to have been removed from the coat’s care label in the version sold by Coast.
According to BBC’s investigation, price disparities persist across Boohoo’s portfolio, affecting a range of products. The fashion empire told the publication that the “miscommunication was not intentional,” noting that “all Boohoo group brands work independently.”
“Teams are not privy to what’s being bought and sold across the other group brands,” the spokesperson added. “Our internal investigation continues and we will be re-pricing all the crossover stock to be aligned.” The coat in question, since removed from Coast’s e-commerce channel, has now been re-priced on Dorothy Perkins’ website at 20 pounds (about $27).
While the public gaffe raised red flags internally, Boohoo’s product woes continue unabated. This week, U.K. consumer Joanna Sikora contacted the publication to recount her own experience of having bought a skirt from upscale womenswear brand Karen Millen, which she later discovered was from mid-range label Oasis.
After receiving the item, which she ordered online for 42 pound (nearly $58), Sikora noted that its quality was not up to par with her expectations for Karen Millen products, prompting her to examine the piece further.
Sikora described the skirt’s inner label as having been altered with pen to cover the Oasis branding. “The labels had been cut and blacked out with marker pen, but I could clearly see that the brand was actually Oasis,” she told the BBC. Notably, the skirt was also available on Oasis’ e-commerce site for 30 pound (about $41).
After sending photos to the brand, she received a full refund. While Boohoo again told BBC that the mixup was accidental, an unnamed company insider said that “it happens all the time.”
The insider claimed that the issue stemmed from a need to liquidate merchandise from Dorothy Perkins, which Boohoo Group Plc. acquired from bankrupt Arcadia Group earlier this year, along with women’s apparel label Wallis and menswear brand Burton.
The acquisition, which included the brands and their online businesses, did not include their 214 physical retail stores, meaning that Boohoo was tasked with selling the stock from these shuttered High Street locations as a part of the buyout, the source said. The strategy involved rebranding and selling these products across a number of websites.
Beyond this particular circumstance, however, Boohoo regularly engages in “group buys” from suppliers, the source said, placing bulk orders for product and selling it across its owned brands, often at varying price points. The company will even move stock within brands should it happen to sell through more effectively under one brand than another. “Boohoo don’t make a secret of it, it’s part of their business model,” the insider added.