Hennes and Mauritz “bullied union activists”

Swedish clothing retailer Hennes and Mauritz bullied union activists, threatened staff who criticised the company and spied on people on sick leave, claims a German trade union.

Verdi, which, with 2.4 million members is one of the world’s largest trade unions, is accusing Hennes and Mauritz of systematically undermining union rights. The clothing giant’s corporate values are completely different in Germany compared to Sweden, they say.

“The only thing they’ve taken from Sweden is that people say ‘du’ to each other and pretend to be one big happy family,” said union representative Malene Volkers to Svenska Dagbladet.

Hennes and Mauritz says it takes the criticism seriously. The company’s head of information, Kristina Stenvinkel, told SvD that what has happened in Germany is not acceptable and that they responded when the problem first came to light in 2004.

However, Malene Volkers claims that the situation has worsened since last year when H & M changed their German boss.

Germany is H & M’s biggest market and accounts for 29% of the company’s total sales.


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.  

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