Australian growers fighting H&M wool boycott

A delegation of Australian wool growers is on its way to Stockholm in the hopes of getting Swedish retailer H&M to back off a decision to stop sourcing wool from Australia.

Australian growers fighting H&M wool boycott
Photo: H&M/Peter Gehrke

According to H&M’s website, the company has decided to purchase wool from other countries until Australia can guarantee mulesing-free merino wool.

“We decided to stop sourcing wool from growers still using this practice,” a spokeswoman for H&M told The Local, stressing that the company did not have a blanket ban on all Australian wool.

The animal rights lobby group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has complained that mulesing, a surgical procedure carried out on merino to prevent susceptibility to a disease known as flystrike, is inhumane and ought to be phased out.

The group accuses Australian growers of backing down on a 2005 promise to stop the practice by 2010.

But representatives from Australia’s wool growing community dispute PETA’s assertions about progress in phasing out mulesing.

They contend that PETA has distorted the facts about Australia’s work to stop the practice and are heading to Stockholm to take their message directly to H&M.

Don Hamblin, the chairman of the Australian Wool and Sheep Industry Task Force stressed his members are wholeheartedly committed to the process.

“We hope to explain to our retailers that Australian wool growers are fair dinkum in their commitment to meeting the 2010 deadline, and that our research company Australian Wool Innovation will have alternatives available to woolgrowers post 2010,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“The PETA campaign is totally incorrect, they’ve said that the Australian wool industry has already reneged on its commitment to the 2010 phase out of mulesing, and that is totally incorrect,” he added.

In confirming the delegation’s impending arrival, Australian Embassy spokesperson David Jessup told The Local that the visit was “designed to provide Swedish retailers with more information about Australia’s wool and sheep industry.”

Jessup confirmed that H&M was on the list of retailers scheduled to meet with the delegation, but refrained from naming any other companies on the delegation’s agenda.


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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