Business

Boohoo: Karen Millen skirt had Oasis label covered in pen

Boohoo: Karen Millen skirt had Oasis label covered in pen thumbnail

By Jennifer Meierhans

BBC News

image copyrightJoanna Sikora

image captionJoanna Sikora said she will never shop at Karen Millen again

A woman who bought a skirt from Karen Millen said she “felt lied to” as it had an Oasis label covered with pen.

Boohoo said it was investigating how this had happened and the “miscommunication was not intentional”.

But a company insider told the BBC “it happens all the time”. Boohoo is yet to respond to these claims.

Miss Sikora sent the company photographs of the altered labels and she received a refund.

image copyrightJoanna Sikora

image captionJoanna Sikora said she could see the name Oasis through a pen mark on the skirt she had bought from Karen Millen

The 39-year-old from Winchester said she used to like treating herself to clothes from Karen Millen, particularly for special occasions.

But when the skirt arrived she remembered thinking, “For Karen Millen, that’s quite poor quality,” and started to examine it.

“The labels had been cut and blacked out with marker pen, but I could clearly see that the brand was actually Oasis,” she said.

What’s more, the skirt was being sold by Karen Millen for £42 while the same garment was priced at £30 on Oasis’ website, she said.

image copyrightJoanna Sikora

image captionJoanna Sikora found a brand label had been cut out of the skirt and a Karen Millen label stitched on top

“The thing is, I don’t mind clothes from Oasis at all. If I go to Primark, I am happy to wear clothes with a Primark label,” said Ms Sikora

“What was really disappointing was that I felt lied to,” she said. “They didn’t even try very hard to hide what they had done and thought consumers would be stupid enough not to realise.

“Prior to Karen Millen being owned by Boohoo, I trusted them. I would purposely shop there because I liked the designs, the quality and the fit. But I will never shop with Karen Millen again now.”

Boohoo acquired the online business of the Karen Millen brand along with Coast in August 2019. Ms Sikora said she bought her skirt in June 2020.

Which brands does Boohoo own?

  • Boohoo and BoohooMan
  • Coast
  • Karen Millen
  • Dorothy Perkins
  • Warehouse
  • Oasis
  • Wallis
  • Burton
  • Debenhams
  • PrettyLittleThing
  • NastyGal
  • MissPap

Ms Sikora’s is another example of how Boohoo – which owns both Karen Millen and Oasis, among many other fashion brands – sells the same pieces of clothing for different prices across its business.

It appears to be a wider practice, with identical garments appearing on websites for Warehouse and Oasis, but at different prices.

Boohoo said last week that the “miscommunication was not intentional” and all of its brands – which also include Dorothy Perkins, Coast, Oasis and Warehouse – “work independently”.

Boohoo, an online-only retailer, has thrived during the pandemic as large swathes of the High Street have been forced to shut to stop the spread of Covid.

In the first 10 months of its current financial year, Boohoo sales rose 42% to £1.2bn and it has continued to expand its business.

image copyrightKaren Millen/Oasis

image captionThe skirt was advertised as Karen Millen on the left and Oasis on the right

Most recently, it bought Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton from Arcadia, which fell into administration earlier this year.

The deal included the brands and online businesses, but not the 214 shops nor 2,450 workers employed in them.

The industry insider explained that Boohoo needed to sell the huge amounts of stock sitting in the High Street stores that had shut as part of this buy out. So the items were rebranded and sold across a number of the websites it owned.

She said aside from this, Boohoo also operated “group buys”, in which it placed bulk orders for a product and sold them across different brands at different prices.

“If a style does not sell on one brand, they will change the stock to another brand, to see if it sells better,” she said.

“Boohoo don’t make a secret of it, it’s part of their business model.

“If they just said, ‘Yeah we do it and it’s to standardise the cost,’ I think people might get it.”

image captionThe care label in the coat sold by Coast appears to have had the branding cut off

The BBC had asked Boohoo why Dorothy Perkins branding appeared to have been cut from the care label in the same coat sold by Coast for £34 more.

Boohoo said: “Stock of the item in question was purchased and live on site by Coast prior to the Boohoo Group’s acquisition of the Dorothy Perkins brand.”

But the insider said: “The coat you bought [from Coast] would have been originally made for Dorothy Perkins and included in the buyout.

“They have then changed the brand label and altered the care label as you found, to spread the stock over all the brands.

“This would not have been sold on Coast before the Dorothy Perkins buyout like they said. That’s not the standard label we use for Coast clothing.

“The layout is different. Normally the brand name is at the top, but here it was at the bottom where Dorothy Perkins have theirs and they’ve obviously cut that off.”

On Friday, the BBC put the insider’s claims to Boohoo, along with Ms Sikora’s story, but the company is yet to respond.

Have you bought clothes from a Boohoo brand, only to see it priced cheaper under another Boohoo-owned business? Share your experiences. Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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