Clarks Is Taking on This Critical Social Issue in Its Stores

Clarks is taking a stand on an important social issue in its home country of England.

The footwear brand has joined a new Department of Education initiative designed to combat a growing literacy crisis that costs the economy nearly $3.3 billion annually, according to the National Literacy Trust. Alongside other leading companies including Lego, WH Smith, HarperCollins and KPMG, Clarks will train its roughly 6,500 retail salespeople to teach its young customers early language skills while they are fitting them for new shoes. The training will take place over the summer so the staff is ready for the back-to-school rush.

The scheme is part of a broader project launched by the U.K. government to address alarming rates of early literacy and communication problems among children from disadvantaged families. An Oxford University Press study conducted last year found that more than 40 percent of 5- and 6-year-olds did not know enough words to perform well in school, and often these children fail to catch up over time.

Education secretary Damian Hinds has previously said publicly that children being sent to school unable to speak sentences is a “persistent scandal.” In a speech last summer, he vowed to tackle the “last taboo” in education by highlighting the fact that many young children are not being taught to talk by their parents.

Clarks is one of a growing number of footwear and fashion firms tackling some of today’s biggest social issues. Toms has taken on gun violence in America, pledging $5 million to organizations such as Everytown for Gun Safety, Faith in Action and March for Our Lives. The brand plans a multicity tour to deliver more than 700,000 postcards to Congress in support of universal background checks. Italian luxury player Gucci also backed the gun control issue, donating $500,000 to the March for Our Lives rally, a 2018 student-led demonstration.

Nike last year threw its support behind the Black Lives Matter movement in a big way, tapping controversial NFL player Colin Kaepernick as the face of its global ad campaign. Kaepernick ignited a national discourse in 2016 when he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem to draw attention to police killings of African-Americans and other racial injustices.

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