There are now less than 100 days until the opening of the Winter Olympics in Russia, and the Hudson Bay Company hopes we will spend some of our Christmas shopping dollars on Olympic clothing. However we are dealing with two very different worlds.
When the Canadian Olympic Committee awarded exclusive rights to the Bay, they made them promise that all of the stuff our athletes will be wearing at Sochi will be made in Canada. But there is no such requirement when it comes to the souvenir garb. All of the shirts, sweaters and hats that Canadians love to wear to show support for our competitors, will be made overseas, mostly in China.
Bonnie Brooks is President of the Bay. She says it’s a question of cost. Most of the clothing manufacturers that used to do business in Canada have disappeared, in the face of imports from the third world where labour is much cheaper.
Brooks promises that none of the Olympic items will be made in Bangladesh where more than 1100 workers were killed when their building collapsed on top of them a few months ago. The result was a very awkward and costly situation for Loblaws who contracted much of their popular clothing from that part of the world.
Consumer groups and others have called for greater transparency as to where clothing that’s sold in Canada is produced, but it’s a slow and difficult process. Companies like the Bay are not eager to reveal very much about their overseas buying because it may give an edge to a competitor like Walmart.
Merchandising is an enormous part of professional sports in Canada and elsewhere. The Saskatchewan Roughriders makes millions off those green jerseys you see in the stands, and the Jets and Blue Bombers are not far behind. Almost none of those goods are produced by workers in Canada.
Don’t believe me? Check the label.
I’m Roger Currie