Camaïeu SA is one of France’s largest chains of women’s ready-to-wear stores. The company founded in 1984 by Jean-Pierre Torck and Jean Duforest, focused on the segment of 20-40 years old women with a mid-range positioning.
Camaïeu operates a global distribution network of 1,060 stores (including 626 stores in France) located in 18 countries as of 2013.
In 2000, Camaïeu has accelerated its international network expansion. It is established in large and medium size cities. It has made important investments in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In 10 years, Camaïeu has managed to develop its presence in 17 countries: France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Morocco.
With over 6,000 employees, of which 4,000 in France, Camaïeu opens more than 100 stores per year. A new Camaïeu store opens somewhere in the world every 3 days. Today the company sells more than 70 million items annually to nearly 37 million customers and had a turnover about 810 million euros as of 2010.
As the company focuses on the lower mid-range women’s clothing market, it has to outsource its production to low-wage countries such as China, Turkey, and the Middle East, in order to position itself as a low-cost alternative in the market.
Failure in Bangladesh
Even if offshoring was, at first, seen as an advantage for Camaïeu, this all changed after an accident occurred in Bangladesh: the Rana Plaza’s fell-down in April 2013. In fact, a whole building where laborers were working for the textile industry collapsed. More than 1100 people died in that accident. Among the ruins, some Camaïeu label were found, which contradicted Camaïeu’s declaration that it was not producing clothes in that factory. Thierry Jaugeas, Camaïeu’s managing director assured that they order some goods to that factory in May 2012, one year before the drama, and affirmed that it was the only time they worked with that factory. So, how come some labels could be found one year after their last purchase?
After doing an internal inquiry, it seems that a Camaïeu’s supplier off-shored its activity in Bangladesh, without informing Camaïeu. Therefore, Camaïeu has decided to indemnify the victims. After this scandal, it has been decided that Camaïeu will keep working with this supplier, but that there will be more control to check if the terms and conditions of the contract with its supplier are respected.
How did they manage to overcome this ordeal and what is the current situation
After the scandal that occurred in Bangladesh, a lot of things where said in the media, but things haven’t really improved yet.
Camaieu, with other French brands such as Auchan, Carrefour, Casino, Benetton, Mango, Walmart or Leclerc, in association with national and international unions and under the auspices of the International Labour Organisation (OIT) were supposed to sign a security agreement in textile factories.
That security agreement required factory inspections and a total transparency on their results. This would have been a huge victory for human rights and working conditions in Bangladesh, if it had been signed.
In France, a bill about a “Vigilance Duty” for French multinationals has been submitted on human rights, but it has not been adopted yet.
Auchan and Carrefour wanted first to reject their responsibilities, because they “were not aware of the lack of security in the building” but under the pressure of French ONG (Peuple Solidaire, Collectif Ethique), they have signed the security agreement. Other companies didn’t.
Currently, those two brands brag about the fact that they did sign the agreement contrary to other brands, even if they didn’t participate to the compensation of victims. 200 corpses have still not been recovered, and that is a good reason for them not to compensate the families’ victims. The total of indemnities they could face is around 54 million €, which is nothing compared to their 2.5 billion € turnover (Auchan and Carrefour).
Camaïeu, other brands involved in the scandal, and some ONG helped by giving money to the victims. That is still not enough.
A lot of demonstrations from textile workers have occurred all around Bangladesh, and the government has taken action.
The minimum wage for textile workers has been raised from 28$ to 50$ (36€) per month, which is still way below the vital wage of 260€ per month.
For the moment, a lot of promises have been made. Hopefully things will change radically for those developing countries with cheap labor force.