Who is paying the price?

We all love a bargain, but when we’re not paying the real cost, who is paying the price?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the true cost of a cushion. On a recent visit to “the High Street”, I noticed a white linen cushion with ruffled trim and zip. It was on sale for £8.99 and this included the filler.  As the founder of a UK-based home furnishings business that creates cushions as their bread and butter, this shocked me somewhat. I know first-hand how much time and money we need to invest in the creation of a cushion. Large corporations are easily able to streamline all processes for greater financial efficiency; this can only be expected for cushion manufacture. I understand this. Yet, even with a very generous allowance for economies of scale, I was struggling to see how this cushion had come to be. 

The Journey

Let’s take a journey through the process involved in getting the cushion to look pretty on a UK sofa.  

A farmer has planted and harvested the flax used for linen. The flax has then been processed, turned into thread, which in turn has been woven into fabric.  Each of these processes needs manpower and machinery. Once the fabric is on the roll, it needs to be transported, pattern cut, and sewn to create the cushion. Somewhere else, the cushion pad is being created through multiple production lines all needing more manpower and machinery. This is already a significant use of resources.

It’s probably right to assume that these processes are taking place abroad, so let’s add warehouse storage and international haulage. More storage will be required once the product is on UK shores. Some regional haulage will be needed before it reaches the shop where it will hopefully be sold. 

That’s a lot of processes to pay for before the product even reaches the shop floor. Once on the shop floor – even though the amount will be tiny – the cushion itself will represent a cost to be housed and processed. This all adds up. I wonder how much all those involved in the production process are being paid and if it is enough for them to have a comfortable life?

On the other hand…

By way of comparison, Oath Home does not have to pay vast sums for the luxury fabrics we use. Our unused, would-be-waste fabrics are donated by industry specialists and interior companies, so we do not need to add this cost to our manufacturing process. Even so, we are a UK small business that hand-curates, hand-cuts, and machines the fabrics, and pays a living wage to all those involved in the process. Furthermore, as a not-for-profit organisation, we donate every penny of profit to Step by Step; a charity that works to support homeless children and young people. 

Who pays the price?

In the world of undercutting and top bargains being the only way forward, it is seemingly impossible for small businesses to compete with the big brands. When one hour’s wages at a sustainable business is more than the total cost of the finished product for a big-name store, how can we ever compete? Who is paying the price? 

The honest answer is simple: we can’t. The only way that businesses like ours who are trying to do the right thing at every step of the way can survive is with your support. By wonderful people like you taking the time to look beyond your go-to brands; to accept that “fast fashion” simply can’t be sustainable; to be willing to part with a little more of your hard-earned cash for a truly luxurious but sustainable product instead of the best bargain. 

We have taken the first steps in furnishing your home with sustainable beauty; the next step is yours.