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“We have the obligation to step up”: General Pants leads bushfire-relief efforts

More than 30 retailers have pledged to donate all their profits from trading this Thursday to the Australian Red Cross after General Pants’ CEO Sacha Laing posted an open letter on LinkedIn, urging businesses to join the youth fashion chain in supporting disaster relief efforts.

“In times like this I feel, we have as large scale employers and businesses that rely on the goodwill and patronage of our communities, the obligation to step up and support those that support us,” Laing wrote in a social media post on Saturday.

Laing said General Pants would be donating 100 per cent of its profits on Thursday, January 9, to the Australian Red Cross, and asking customers to donate in-store and online, but he said the company could make a bigger difference if other retailers did the same.

“Collectively we all can make a real difference if we do this together,” he wrote.

By Tuesday, more than 30 retailers had joined General Pants in committing to donate their profits to the Red Cross, including The Iconic, MJ Bale, Cue Clothing Co, Rodd & Gunn, City Chic, Hush Puppies, Life Interiors and the True Alliance Group, which distributes Coach, The North Face, Nautica and other brands in Australia and New Zealand.

“Like everyone across Australia and globally, we’re deeply saddened by the bushfires burning across our country and the devastating effect on communities, wildlife, our firefighters and the Australian landscape,” Erica Berchtold told Inside Retail about the retailer’s decision to participate in the initiative.

“We’re proud to be working with General Pants and so many other fantastic retailers to create this joint initiative in support of the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund.”

Laing is urging more retailers to join the fundraiser before January 9.

“Over the next 48 hours, we’ll start to engage with consumers to tell them about [the initiative] and encourage them to head out to one of the participating retailers,” he told Inside Retail on Monday.

Desire to do something

The idea for the initiative came out of Laing’s desire to do something after seeing so many horrific images of the bushfires in the news and on social media.

“You couldn’t help but want to contribute in some way,” he said.

He chose Thursday because it is the biggest trading day of the week.

Profits will be donated to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Fund for the following uses:

  1. Welcoming people in evacuation centres and recovery hubs. Listening, comforting, making people’s well-being the number one priority.
  2. Locating missing loved ones through the Red Cross Register.Find.Reunite service.
  3. Providing emergency grants to those who’ve lost their homes to fires this summer, to cover immediate and everyday expenses.
  4. Staying long after the disaster has passed via 1:1 support as people recover, and preparing resilience programs for the wider community.
  5. Providing ongoing training, education and community outreach in preparation for the next disaster, be it here in Australia or further afield.

“We’ve been impacted”

Ironically, General Pants had its own brush with disaster less than three months ago, when its head office burned down in a fire that started in a tile factory in the business complex in Alexandria, NSW, where the company was headquartered.

Nobody was injured in the fire, but the company was forced to find new premises overnight.

“We had our own moment of difficulty [and now] we we want to help those whose businesses have been impacted,” Laing said.

Several General Pants stores have had to close due to nearby bushfires, and a significant number of stores have been unable to receive merchandise due to road closures.

“We’ve been impacted both at a business and a personal level,” he said.

Given the scale of the bushfires, he said it’s unlikely anyone has been left unaffected. At the same time, he praised the outpouring of support for victims and first responders.

“What we’re wanting to do here is one of many initiatives. It’s a sign of Australians helping Australians.”

In addition to donating its profits to the Red Cross this Thursday, The Iconic is working with its charity partner Thread Together to provide targeted, urgent clothing items for affected communities and additional volunteer support.

It also is accepting donations of new, non-perishable essentials and wildlife care at its Sydney headquarters and fulfilment centre, which it plans to distribute with its logistics partners.

“Most importantly, we are focusing our efforts on providing immediate support as well as long-term action as per our commitment to social and environmental responsibility,” Berchtold said.

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