Boohoo is facing a major backlash from the public and workers’ unions for “marketing face masks as a fashion item” while its staff complain of safety concerns.
The online fashion giant has become the latest to face major criticism from USDAW, which represents its warehouse workers in Burnley, after it launched a range of face masks emblazoned with slogans like “Quarantine Queen”.
The range of face masks, which also feature slogans like “Stay In. Save Lives” and “Eat, Sleep, Isolate, Repeat”, have been branded both offensive and useless by USDAW, Boohoo staff and NHS workers.
“Today’s news that the company is marketing fashion face masks, that experts say are absolutely no use as PPE, is a real slap in the face for our members,” USDAW general secretary Paddy Lillis said.
“Selling fashion clothing is not essential in a period of national emergency, but selling items that look like essential equipment is downright scandalous.”
As if @boohoo are selling face masks with “quarantine queen” on them and their brand all over them?!? Can’t be the only person who thinks this is completely in wrong! We’re in a pandemic. pic.twitter.com/dq60xgRiq6
— Lilia Garner (@_LiliaGarner) April 14, 2020
@boohoo_cshelp I have a question, WHY do you deem it appropriate to be marketing ‘fashion’ face masks right now?! Think this is actually disgraceful and as a result I now won’t be checking out the £88 basket I just filled. pic.twitter.com/FWBAzEtTxK
— Kayleigh Logue (@Kay_xox_) April 18, 2020
Lillis added that his organisation had been “inundated” by serious concerns from workers over safety measures in Boohoo’s warehouse.
“We share the disgust that healthcare staff have expressed in the media. At a time when they are desperate for PPE, along with many public facing staff delivering essential services, Boohoo should hang their heads in shame for this despicable stunt.”
The masks have also been slammed by NHS workers for being insensitive and making a “mockery” out of NHS workers struggling to secure effective PPE equipment.
One nurse posted on Boohoo’s Instagram: “This is no joking matter, people are extremely sick and dying from this horrible illness and you feel it appropriate to sell masks that have absolutely no protection to the public whatsoever.
“Just for show, and to make more money for yourselves. Maybe, instead of making a mockery of everyone on the frontline and those that are vulnerable and actually need masks to protect ourselves, you should be helping to distribute proper PPE that we are very much struggling to be provided with.”
In response to the accusations, Boohoo said: “Selling masks as a fashion accessory has been popular with our global customer base for a long time and like many other brands we have offered them in a variety of styles as a part of collections.
“We are clear that this item is not suitable or designed to be used as protection and we are very sorry for any upset that the message on this particular item has caused and have immediately taken them off sale. Like everyone in the country we are immensely proud of the incredible work the front line NHS staff are doing and which is why our entire team are mobilised to identify how we can help.
“We have gifted tens of thousands of items of basic clothing for NHS staff to wear under their scrubs, we are currently producing thousands of scrubs, masks and gowns which we will donate.
“We have also gifted hundreds of tablets for patients to use to stay connected with their families and we are responding to hundreds of individual requests from NHS staff and charities as fast as we can. We are keen to play our part and we are sorry that this item caused offence and did not reflect the efforts that are team are making.”