H&M Bangladesh deaths under scrutiny

A fire at a H&M factory in Bangladesh last week was not the first to have broken out at the site and the company is investigating allegations that 21 workers who died in the blaze were locked in at the time.

H&M Bangladesh deaths under scrutiny

“There was a smaller fire there in 2008, but no one was injured then,” H&M spokesperson, Jenni Tapper Hoël told news agency TT.

“Personnel from our local office are on the way there now to find out what happened,” she said, adding that it was too early to comment on speculation that a lack of safety provisions at the factory was responsible for the deaths.

When the fire broke out on Thursday at the plant in Gazipur, north of the country’s capital, Dhaka, 21 workers were trapped in an upper floor which survivors say was locked, reports TT. At least 40 workers were injured.

The factory which makes knitted sweaters for H&M was previously checked by the company in October 2009 and no major safety shortfalls were found, said Tapper Hoël .

Viveka Risberg, head of Swedwatch, a state funded organization monitoring Swedish companies in developing countries said that it was not the first time workers have died in fires at H&M factories in Bangladesh.

“I know that another factory, that also works for H&M, burned during the last decade and that people died,” she told TT.

Risberg, who previously worked for the company and visited the factory in Gazipur, said that workers had been locked in there before.

“I know that it occurred ten years ago, but I thought that it was a thing of the past.”

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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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