By Kristy Dorsey

Scottish fashion chain Quiz has suspended one of its suppliers amid an investigation into allegations of exploitation of workers in Leicester.

According to a report published at the weekend, an undercover journalist was offered just £3 per hour to make clothing for Glasgow-headquartered Quiz. The national minimum wage for workers aged 25 and over is £8.72 per hour.

Responding yesterday, the retailer said if the claims were accurate, they were “totally unacceptable”.

“Quiz is extremely concerned by information recently reported in the media regarding an alleged instance of non-compliance with National Living Wage requirements in a factory making Quiz products in Leicester,” the company said in a statement. “The group is very grateful to the press for highlighting these alleged breaches.

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“The group is currently investigating the reported allegations, which if found to be accurate are totally unacceptable.

“From our initial review, we believe that one of Quiz’s suppliers based in Leicester has used a sub-contractor in direct contravention of a previous instruction from Quiz. It is this sub-contractor that is subject of the National Living Wage complaint. Quiz has immediately suspended activity with the supplier in question pending further investigation.”

A spokesperson declined to say when Quiz had first ordered the sub-contractor to be dropped, adding that the company would not be releasing any additional information to its statement at this time. Tarak Ramzan, chief executive of Quiz, was quoted as saying that the company will update stakeholders “in due course”.

The news comes just a week after similar allegations sliced more than a third off the share price of rival Boohoo. Shares in AIM-listed Quiz, which took a sustained slide after a downbeat Christmas trading update in January, edged marginally higher yesterday to close at 6.77p.

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Quiz said all of its suppliers must adhere to the group’s ethical code of practice, and those that fail to will be terminated. It monitors its supplier base through audits and site visits, and is “in the advanced stages” of appointing an independent third-party partner to provide more regular audits in the Leicester region, which has been under scrutiny for alleged poor working conditions at some sites.

In addition to taking immediate action on this specific incident, Quiz said the board of directors has also committed to a full review of the group’s current auditing processes to ensure they are robust enough to maintain on-going compliance with the company’s ethical code of practice.

“We are extremely concerned and disappointed to be informed of the alleged breach of National Living Wage requirements in a factory making Quiz products,” Mr Ramzan said. “The alleged breaches to both the law and Quiz’s ethical code of practice are totally unacceptable.

“We are thoroughly investigating this incident and will also conduct a fuller review of our supplier auditing processes to ensure that they are robust. We will update our stakeholders in due course.”

Retail giant Next, which sells Quiz clothing through its online channel, said it is also carrying out its own investigation “with full cooperation from the Quiz senior management team”.

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As of April, Quiz operated 82 stand-alone stores and 174 concessions through retailers such as Debenhams and House of Fraser. The physical outlets have been shuttered since March, and its online business was temporarily shut down at the end of March, but resumed trading in April.

In June, the group put its Kast Retail subsidiary into administration in a bid to offload loss-making outlets and reduce its rent payments. Kast was responsible for the 82 stand-alone Quiz store leases.

The group immediately bought back stock and other assets of Kast for £1.3 million, with the contracts of 822 employees transferred over. However, 11 stores were permanently closed by the administrators with the loss of 93 jobs.

Quiz is currently in discussions with landlords about the leases on the 71 remaining shops, which were not transferred over as part of the pre-pack administration. Three have re-opened so far, with lease negotiations continuing across the remainder.

“We continue to believe that stores, with appropriate property costs and flexible lease terms, can continue to be a relevant pillar in our omni-channel model and we will be seeking to re-open Quiz stores where we believe it is prudent and economic to do so,” Mr Ramzan said in June.