Last year it seemed there was a continuous expose of retailers mistreating staff.
But despite outrage from the public, the press, and MPs, many of these retailers recovered quickly.
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This year will bring about tougher trading conditions as the introduction of the national living wage and the weaker pound lead to squeezed profit margins and retailers may make further cuts to working conditions to save costs.
However, the media will continue to exert pressure on organisations to shape up.
If retailers want to avoid exposing themselves in the same way scandal-ridden Sports Direct has, they must not compromise on working practices.
Consumers are led by price not ethical practices
Most people disagree with the mistreatment of employees in retail.
Research from GlobalData shows that 81 percent of consumers claim that they will not shop at a retailer with a reputation for employee mistreatment.
However, many retailers with tarnished reputations over working practices continue to be successful. Recent examples include ecommerce giants ASOS and Amazon.
This is because consumers are primarily driven by low prices and unwilling to compromise on this.
Over half (53 percent) of consumers admit to shopping with retailers who are known culprits for bad working practices when they are the cheapest on price.
Millennials are the most influenced by price with just over two thirds stating they would still shop at a retailer with bad working practices if they were the best on price.
Meanwhile older generations, specifically those aged 45-64 are less swayed, with only 40 percent confessing to shopping at cheap but unethical stores.
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To really communicate with millennials, campaigners need to demonstrate that retailers can still provide products at low prices without being unethical.
One example is Primark which in the last few years has worked hard to reverse its unethical reputation through publicly debunking false allegations and creating a dedicated ethics page on its website to answer customer concerns.
Retailers must wise up to poor working practices
Sports Direct has shown that a mix of negative press and bad management can be detrimental to a brand’s image and profit margins — the retailer has recorded a fall in 2016/17 half-year underlying profits before tax of 57 percent.
To avoid such pitfalls, retailers need to wise up to where their products are coming from. Many retailers themselves are unaware of bad practices when it comes to creating and distributing their own products.
This is often through bad management and a lack of understanding of their own warehouse systems, or because they outsource work to unethical suppliers who turn a blind eye to poor working conditions.
Despite trading conditions looking tough in 2017 and retailers making cost-saving adjustments — M&S has already ditched its policy of premium pay for those working during anti-social hours — retailers must not compromise on their working practices and at best must ensure they follow basic government guidelines for staff treatment.
Without doing so they are vulnerable to negative press exposure and damaging the value of their brand, and in extreme cases they risk expensive legal fees, losing customers and continuous attacks from the press and MPs.