The chief executive of H&M Hennes and Mauritz AB said the fashion giant wants to be a “responsible buyer,” standing by a human-rights position that angered Beijing and triggered the brand’s disappearance from China’s internet.
“We want to be a responsible buyer, in China and elsewhere, and are now building forward-looking strategies and actively working on next steps with regards to material sourcing,” said Chief Executive Helena Helmersson during a conference call coinciding with the company’s earnings.
Last week, China’s leading e-commerce, ride-hailing, daily-deals and map applications removed any reference to H&M after a statement it issued last year about not sourcing material from Xinjiang, a major cotton-producing region in China, suddenly went viral. That triggered government criticism and attacks from pro-Beijing social-media influencers in the country.
Ms. Helmersson said the Swedish company remained committed to the Chinese market and was “dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues and business partners in China.” She said 20 of H&M’s roughly 500 stores in the country had been closed, answering a question about whether landlords were forcing them to shut. She declined to elaborate on why or when. She also declined to answer a question about whether H&M’s supply chain in China has been impacted.
The standoff has turned H&M, one of the world’s largest clothing retailers, into the latest test case for how a big Western brand navigates a Chinese government increasingly willing to assert itself over the actions of foreign companies. For many consumer-focused companies, the country is their fastest-growing market. But Beijing’s willingness to intervene with Western companies, or call out foreign businesses it sees as not toeing the government’s line, can become a major pitfall.|0|https://www.wsj.com/articles/h-m-under-attack-in-china-sticks-to-stance-that-angered-beijing-11617193367?mod=pls_whats_news_us_business_f|1|https://images.wsj.net/im-318602/social|2|www.wsj.com|E|