M&S shwopping scam

shwopping not the future of fashion

shwopping not the future of fashion

M&S shwopping scam

M&S shwopping scam

Thursday, to much fanfare, M&S launched shwopping.

M&S cynical exercise in greenwash

M&S were concerned at the billion items of clothing that go to landfill every year. They wished to do something about it, bring your unwanted clothes to M&S and M&S will recycle the clothes.

A dumb video featuring Joanna Lumley emptying her wardrobe and taking her unwanted clothes to M&S to be recycled.

The CEO of M&S was asked could people bring their unwanted clothes to M&S and not buy anything. The fraction of a second hesitation, before he answered yes, said it all.

The day after the launch. I checked out shwopping.

A big poster in the window of M&S, very much in your face as you walked into and around the store, even the staff wore badges encouraging you to shwop. You could not miss that shwopping was the next big thing, the future of fashion, as M&S claim.

The store was not, as I expected to find, awash with unwanted clothes.

I asked a very helpful lady, had they been inundated with unwanted clothes all day.

No, she replied, she did not think any clothes had come in.

She pointed to a small box where people were to dump their unwanted clothes.

Could we please have a look inside, I asked.

We looked and found a couple of carrier bags of what we assumed to be clothes.

Is, this it, I asked.

Looks like it, she replied.

She then explained how the scam, oops sorry, scheme worked.

People were to go through their wardrobe, find all what they did not wear and bring it into M&S so it could be worn by someone else.

So far, so good, but not quite the stopping unwanted clothes going to landfill as the clothes were not going anywhere, the clothes were sitting in a wardrobe.

She then went on to explain that whilst in M&S you could buy new clothes, and that there was an incentive to do so as you could enter a prize draw and win £100 of M&S vouchers.

The helpful lady then handed me a leaflet, a step by step guide to shwopping:

Come in store for those new season’s ‘must have’ and bring an old item of clothing with you.

And there you have it, this is not a green initiative, this is about shopping, buying those ‘must have’ fashion items, consumerism writ large.

The very name says it all shwopping not shwapping. The emphasis is on shopping not swapping.

Deborah Orr could not have put it better in an article in The Guardian:

One is tempted to suggest M&S would achieve its aims better if it discouraged feckless clothes-buying, by specialising in more expensive investment items, made in Britain, like it used to. Or refrained from selling so much of its food in plastic packaging.

But all retailers want consumers to keep consuming. If they can market the idea that it’s green to do so, they will. And “Shwopping”? It’s an ugly word for a mildly dubious enterprise. I don’t suppose there’s much harm in it. But I can’t help feeling it’s not good enough for such enthusiastic endorsement from Lumley.

Some apologists say it closes the loop. No it does not, as you are going out and buying new clothes.

Shwapping, closing the loop, would be to buy from charity shops, donate to charity shops.

M&S are to be complimented on a very slick marketing campaign, ease the conscience, whilst carry on shopping.

This is a bit like airlines who offer to plant a few trees to offset the carbon of the flight. Only it does not.

The carbon of the flight is emitted over a period of a few hours. The tree absorbs the carbon over seventy years for a fast growing tree, a few centuries for a slow growing oak. And this ignores who looks after the trees, who safeguards the trees.

Fast fashion is a very dirty industry. Growing of and processing cotton (unless organic) is highly polluting. Irrigating cotton leaves the land coated in salt, the hazardous chemical sprays pollute the land and water supplies, processing of cotton, the bleaching and dying, more hazardous chemicals. Then the cotton goes into the sweatshops to be turned into the clothes we wear.

Anything that closes the loop, that uses natural materials, is to be welcome. But that is not what M&S is doing.

Slow fashion: Clothes that are well designed, clothes that look stylish, clothes that we value, that we launder and repair, clothes that can easily be recycled.

Fast fashion: Cheap clothes (though at a cost to people and planet), clothes we throw away, that cannot be easily recycled and end up in landfill.

Slow fashion will come from a small designer, we can ask where the clothes come from, how they were made, the materials used.

The CEO of M&S claimed they were buying British.

Thursday evening In Business on BBC Radio 4 looked at what was left of the textile industry in Lancashire. One of the mills had M&S pull the plug and they collapsed overnight.

The CEO of M&S claimed they were the No 1 High Street retailer on the environment, way ahead of other High Street retailers.

Really, thought I, is that why you import King Edward potatoes from Israel?

What of Lush, thought I.

Next visit was to Lush. I told them of shwopping and the claim from M&S No 1 on the environment.

To say they were incredulous would be an understatement.

Why do you not shout about your environmental credentials I asked.

We do not need to all the staff chorused, all you have to do is look around our shop and you can see with your own eyes.

They were right.

We then had a long discussion on environmental matters and I signed their petition calling for a ban on animal testing of products.

How many products in M&S are tested on animals?

It is not what M&S say they are doing, but what they are doing that matters.

I picked up from M&S a prawn and avocado sandwich. It was inside a paper bag with a plastic window. The paper bag was lined with plastic. Virtually impossible to recycle. When I opened up my bag, I Found my sandwich to be inside a plastic tray!

The only positive thing about the M&S cynical greenwash exercise, is that it has highlighted the amount of clothes that go to landfill. But you do not solve this by emptying your wardrobe and restocking it from M&S.

You solve it by adopting slow fashion. Slow fashion is the fashion of the future simply because it is the only fashion that is sustainable.

Will M&S be advising to buy quality clothes, to not buy so many clothes, to look after our clothes, to recycle our unwanted clothes to extend their useful life?

I somehow think not.

M&S cynical exercise in greenwash
Lush Cosmetics – Our Environmental Policy
‘Shwopping’? An ugly word for a dubious enterprise
Do we recycle enough of our clothes?
Disposable clothes
M&S launches ‘shwopping’ scheme
Joanna Lumley joins M&S to launch shwopping
Joanna Lumley launches Marks & Spencer’s Shwopping campaign

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7 Responses to “M&S shwopping scam”

  1. Alison Renouf Says:

    This statement is so long I got bored and skip read it. Fair enough to print a statement that explains why etc, but a conclusion at the end will help please.

    So is it just a donation or a price reduction swap? Either way I don’t mind, I just am interested to know.

    Also will there be information on the achievements of the scheme. That may help to encourage donations.

  2. Sarah Walls Says:

    Brilliant blog, have re-posted it on facebook. Thanks you

  3. keithpp Says:

    Sorry you got bored and skipped, but I suggest you take the trouble to read.

    No, you get no price reduction. It is simply a very clever marketing ploy to get you into M&S to buy more stuff, but masquerading as green, thus greenwash.

    Yes, it has highlighted the amount of stuff going to landfill, and yes we must reduce, but we do not reduce by going to M&S and buying more.

    The future of fashion is slow fashion: quality clothes that we value, that if we do not want any more we recycle by giving to our friends, swapping, selling on eBay or donating to a charity shop (but not Oxfam)

    The only items to donate to Oxfam is M&S as you will get a £5 voucher to spend in M&S.

    Shwopping is about shopping in M&S. They even incentivise by offering a draw for £100 voucher.

    Lets us see M&S reduce their excessive packaging.

    You make a very good point on validation of the scheme, and this would have to be an external audit.

    I will leave you with a final thought: Would M&S be spending this amount of money promoting shwopping unless it was of direct benefit to M&S?

  4. Bill Bailey Says:

    The Joanna Lumley does not even tell people how recycle their clothes. Are they prepared to take in bags full of clothes from masses of non-buying members of the public. I think not! Every swish advert but certainly a marketing ploy and one which Ms Lumley has been duped into being part of.

  5. keithpp Says:

    Shwopping is not about recycling. It is about emptying your wardrobe and going to M&S and buying more stuff now you have cleared a space for it.

  6. ameliasattic Says:

    So we should all buy form charity shops and donate to charity shops? There will be an awful lot of unemployed people out there and not just in this country. M&S have derived a workable incentive to stop clothes being thrown in the bin. Give credit where it’s due, they could be doing absolutely nothing!

  7. keithpp Says:

    Credit for what, greenwash, marketing?

    It has not even worked well as marketing.

    Yes, M&S are to be congratulated for highlighting the amount of clothes that go to landfill, but only the most naive fail to recognise it for what it is, greenwash to encourage you to shop more in M&S but with a slightly clear conscience.

    We live on a finite planet. If we all consumed at this level we would need several planets. We do not have several planets.

    There is nothing great about working in a sweatshop. Look at those supplying Adidas for the London 2012 Olympics and supplying official London 2012 tat.

    London 2012 Olympics sweatshop misery
    Adidas worker exploitation for London 2012 Olympics

    We have to close the loop. We do this by donating to charity shops, buying from charity shops, by buying quality clothes that last, by choosing style not fashion, slow fashion not fast fashion.

    In February and March with Spanish women, March with Italian women, May with Russian women. Oh what a pleasant change to the lack of taste of most English women, style wins over fashion every time.

    It is not necessary to have a change of clothes every season, but idiots are brainwashed into doing so.

    Read The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho where you will find a brilliant condemnation of fashion and how people are brainwashed.

    It is very depressing when people let a handful of High Street chains dictate what they wear and how they dress.

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