In Bangladesh rubble, the prices of profit

Tue May 14, 2013 7:14am EDT
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* Orders found in rubble reveal price of retail profits

* Clothes sold in West for up to 10 times factory cost

* Industry under pressure to tighten safety controls

By Sarah Morris

MADRID, May 14 (Reuters) - Order dockets found in the rubble of a Dhaka garment factory where over 1,100 workers died show just why it pays foreign stores to buy from Bangladesh - clothes made for as little as a tenth of what they sell for in the West.

Rana Plaza, which collapsed three weeks ago, supplied big names in global retail; documents plucked from its ruins by labour activists and seen by Reuters bring into sharp focus the price of putting shirts on the backs of cost-conscious shoppers.

In one case, polo shirts of a brand sold in London for $46 were offered for sale from Rana Plaza for just $4.45, a typical transformation in an industry where manufacturers across Asia and retailers in Europe and North America are locked in war to get catwalk trends ever faster, and ever cheaper, to consumers.

Found at the site, where rescuers dug out bodies of hundreds of seamstresses and factory hands, were orders from Spanish chain store Mango to Phantom Tac, a supplier based in Rana Plaza, where owners are accused of sacrificing safety to profit.

It is no secret that retail price labels, whether for a $5 T-shirt or a $5,000 suit, reflect manufacturing costs that are a fraction of what the wearer eventually pays. But the mark-ups revealed by the Rana Plaza documents - of 5 to 10 times from factory gate to store window - offer a precise insight into the relationship of one end of a global supply chain to the other.   Continued...