ICM regularly carry out polls for Retail Week, and you’ll regularly not find me mentioning them since they deal with exciting things like how often you shop at Primark. The most recent one is more interesting however, dealing with question of whether or not people agree with the EU quotas on Chinese textile imports.

Asked straight out if textile imports from China should be limited to protect European clothing manufacturers a substantial majority think they should – 57% compared to 33% opposed.

However, when people are asked how much more they personally would be willing to pay for clothes that are made in the EU, their protectionist insticts seem to fade a bit – 38% wouldn’t pay anything more whatsoever, 21% would pay just 5% more, 19% would pay 10% for European made clothes. Only 3% would pay 25% more for European made clothes.

What I found surprising, is that there is very little difference between this and how much people say they would be willing to pay for British made clothes – 35% would pay no more at all, 21% would pay up to 5% more, 21% would pay up to 10% more, and only 3% would pay 25% more for British made clothes. This suggests that, people are on the whole just as happy to support European clothing manufacturers over cheaper alternatives as they are British ones.

So, what is the actual price differential, how much are people actually paying for the benefit of buying clothes made in the EU rather than China? I’m not aware of any general figures, but the widely quoted example at the time of the stand off was that a blouse that would cost £6.50 to manufacture in China, would cost £7 to make in Eastern Europe and £10 to make in Britain. So if you bought a blouse made in Eastern Europe you would actually be paying 8% more than if you bought an identical Chinese version – if you bought a British made blouse it would cost you 50% more than if the same blouse had been made in China.

(In reality of course, the difference isn’t that much because Chinese imports also face a tariff barrier that domestic goods don’t. For almost all clothes this is 12.4%)

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