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Hennes and Mauritz facing bribery probe

A Swedish prosecutor has begun investigating allegations of bribery after a group of fashion journalists were given an all-expenses-paid trip to New York by clothing retailer Hennes and Mauritz.

Travel, hotel and living expenses were included and came to around 15,000 kronor per person.

The newspaper Resumé revealed that several major Swedish fashion magazines graciously accepted the offer from H and M, which flew the journalists to New York for a presentation of its autumn collection.

Hennes and Mauritz says that some 200 journalists from different countries were flown in and stayed at the same hotel.

In June, prosecutor Christer van der Kwast was tipped off about the trip and began looking into the affair. The allegation against Hennes and Mauritz is bribery, while the journalists are suspected of corruption.

An investigator told TT that facts are still being collected and that nobody involved has yet been interviewed or informed of the allegations.

“We are going to look at this now, but we’ll wait and see as far as the question of new guidelines is concerned,” said Liv Asarnoj, press officer at H and M, to news agency TT.

The chief editors of several of the magazines which accepted the New York offer defended their decision in Resumé.

“In the newspaper world it is unusual to go on trips like this, but it happens in the magazine world,” said Cosmopolitan’s Jonna Bergh Wahlström, who added that such jaunts were seen as “research”.

“Our readers are interested in the latest news about trends at a fair price,” said Elle’s Kristina Adolfsson. But she described her policy as “unbelievably restrictive” where travel was concerned.

Femina’s Lisbet Lundahl agreed that the trip raises a question of press ethics.

“I still think it was OK since we didn’t write more about Hennes and Mauritz because we were there,” she said.

According to the ethics ombudsman at the Swedish Union of Journalists, Justus Bennet, it’s a serious matter if fashion magazines have a different policy to other newspapers and he said a shake-up is needed. He said that whether or not the trips resulted in an article was irrelevant.

“The point is to take care of all journalists’ credibility. It affects colleagues if in the end readers think that all fashion reporting is bought,” he said.

Anyone surprised? Discuss!

TT/The Local

H&M

H&M competitor to sponsor Sweden’s Olympic team

Six months after establishing itself in Stockholm, Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo has announced it will sponsor Sweden’s athletes at the 2020 Olympics.

H&M competitor to sponsor Sweden's Olympic team
Anna Hasselborg of Sweden's curling team tries out new kit supplied for the country's athletes by Uniqlo. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The clothing chain, one of the world’s fastest-growing retail companies, is also set to open more stores in the Scandinavian country.

“Swedes are so sophisticated and warm-hearted,” Uniqlo Europe CEO Taku Morikawa said, stressing how welcome his company has been made to feel.

Morikawa was in Sweden to present the partnership between Uniqlo and the Swedish Olympic Committee at an event at Uniqlo’s store on Hamngatan in Stockholm.

Sweden’s athletes wore teamwear supplied by H&M at the last two Olympic Games.

The Stockholm store, Uniqlo’s first in the Nordic region, opened its doors in August 2018. An expansion is now planned on the Swedish market, although Morikawa declined to reveal where.

“We definitely have plans to open more stores here,” he said.

A store will also open in Danish capital Copenhagen in the coming spring as Uniqlo’s holding company Fast Retailing continues its global expansion.

Sales figures in Sweden’s clothing retail sector have seen a downward trend in recent years, with an exception in 2015.

H&M is usually cited as one of Uniqlo’s main competitors.

The impact of a new player on an already-competitive market is difficult to predict, according to the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel).

“Locally, competition is sharpened, but competition is already fierce. I would be inclined to say that this type of partly new concept store can, instead, help to revitalise the physical retail sector for clothing,” the association’s head economist Johan Davidson said.  

READ ALSO: H&M profit down sharply despite rise in online sales

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