Penneys who?
For many years, Penneys has been Ireland’s favourite affordable fashion brand. A lot of items in Penneys are in and around the €10-€15 price range. They also offer more costly and arguably more fashionable clothes, rivalling their dearer counterparts such as River Island and New Look. But is all this set to change? Dealz have recently announced that they are bringing their discount fashion line, Pep&Co, to Ireland. Will Penneys fade insignificantly into the background? 
 
Katie Kelly, Penneys’ Fashion Media spokeswoman for Ireland, declined to comment on the fact Dealz are now moving into the fashion market. Penneys has managed curate a strong brand loyalty here in Ireland, especially since the brand was originally founded in Dublin. Pep&Co will have to work hard to entice customers away from Penneys and into their stores.
 
Pep&Co first launched in July 2015 in Kettering, Northamptonshire in England. Since March 2017, they have been selling their wares within existing Poundland stores (the UK name for Dealz). This is the format they will take when they break into the Irish market. In the UK, all of the clothes retail at around the £10 mark, according to The Irish Times. The brand is popular for baby clothes and women’s clothes, with an effort made recently to increase the range that is available to men. Most stores in the UK opened up in smaller towns with no Primark, filling a much-needed void in the market.
 
In their official announcement, Dealz said that Pep&Co arriving in Ireland “will bring a new and affordable alternative for savvy Dealz customers who love a bargain.” They also said that the new clothing line will boost the Irish retail sector, in keeping with Dealz’ commitment to the economy. Suzanne Cairns, Dealz PR representative, says that she cannot comment any further at this time, but that more information will be made available in early 2018.
 
While we all love affordable clothes, there are wider ethical concerns when it comes to budget brands. Penneys has an entire part of their website dedicated to ethical trading, which includes links to show how they meet the required standards during production. Penneys say that they do not own factories and that they carefully select the ones they work with based on their Code of Conduct, which in turn is based on principles “from the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), which is based on those of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)”. 
 
The clothing and textile industry is rife with dangerous working conditions and long hours with little to no pay. A recent campaign by Zara workers highlighted this, with workers from Turkey sewing notes into garments stating they were not paid for their work. Zara has been plagued by rumours of poor working conditions in their factories for years, but they say that they are working on a resolution, according to Refinery29. The fact that Pep&Co clothes are so cheap might get consumers thinking about the so-called “fast fashion” industry. In any case, it is worth reflecting on how and why our clothes are becoming so much more affordable, and what this means for those making our clothes.