If you’re someone who menstruates but is sick of forking out the big bucks for period pants, we have news: John Lewis and Waitrose are cutting the price of theirs, effective next week.
Joining Tesco and Marks & Spencer, the retailers announced a price reduction of 20% on 30 different types of period underwear in response to the recent Say Pants to the Tax campaign, which urges the UK government to remove the VAT that currently applies to period pants.
Yes, really – period pants classify as regular garments meaning they’re applicable to a 20% VAT charge, as opposed to pads and tampons, which have fallen under the VAT exemption since 2021.
‘The right thing to do’
Reducing the price will mean customers pay less – for example, briefs priced at £10 will be reduced to £8.33 – but Waitrose and John Lewis will fund the 20% VAT themselves and pay this to HMRC.
“We’re known for offering great-quality underwear at affordable prices to our customers,” said Jo McKee, lingerie buyer for John Lewis. “We feel it’s the right thing to abolish this tax on period underwear, to make these essential products as accessible as possible.”
Nicki Baggott, sanitary products buyer for Waitrose, added “it’s the right thing to do” and will help people “save money on everyday essentials”.
So, why now?
In the past two decades, period underwear has soared in popularity, with major brands like Sainsbury’s, Primark and Next selling them.
They also proved popular during the Covid-19 lockdown, with customers seeking out eco-conscious alternatives to single-use products.
Darcey Finch, a 26-year-old illustrator, told BBC News she found period pants “really expensive” and was surprised they were taxed differently from tampons and pads.
She added: “I just assumed they wouldn’t be taxed – the only negative to them is the price.”
Earlier this month, a petition was launched calling on the UK government to reclassify period pants as a period product.
It has since responded to the petition saying it introduced a VAT zero rate on 1 January 2021 on sanitary products previously subject to a rate of 5%.
“Period pants are not in this group, but we keep all taxes under review,” they added.
A Treasury spokesperson also emphasised the government’s commitment to the affordability and accessibility of sanitary products, citing the scrapping of the tampon tax and including free sanitary products in educational facilities and healthcare environments.