Chinese consumers blast H&M statement, more stores may close
Published: Mar 31, 2021 04:33 PM
H&M. Photo: VCG

H&M. Photo: VCG

Chinese consumers said they're not buying a fresh statement that H&M made on Wednesday, with some asserting H&M is a market "speculator", after the company claimed that it was "a responsible buyer" while refusing to apologize or begin to source Xinjiang cotton.

Market watchers warned that such a statement could hardly win the forgiveness of Chinese people, and the group may face more stores being shut down in the coming days due to lost consumers.  

"Just shut up. H&M does not understand the true thinking of Chinese consumers at all," a Beijing-based white-collar worker surnamed Liang told the Global Times. "The company lives in prejudice."

"Lots of nonsense, the statement does not have one sentence saying H&M will support Xinjiang cotton." "There is no apology? I will continue to boycott the brand," were some comments by netizens. commented that such a statement is full of empty words and lacks sincerity. "If you really want to regain trust and keep the market, you have to show sincerity on the key issues that you are stirring up," it said. 

Such comments came after H&M said on Wednesday that "China is a very important market" and its commitment to the country "remains strong".

It was a fresh announcement coming after the Swedish apparel brand faced a roaring boycott in China that has lasted for more than one week, after the company said that it will stop sourcing cotton grown in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on the fabricated lie that Xinjiang used "forced labor" in cotton-picking. 

H&M's statement said that it is dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of its customers, colleagues, and business partners in China. 

"We comply with local laws and regulatory frameworks in all the markets where we operate. We want to be a responsible buyer, in China and elsewhere," the statement said. 

However, "the statement has no sincerity, and it is of no help in restoring business in Chinese stores," Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, a mobile internet consulting agency, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

He warned that the group may face more stores being shut down in China, one of the largest markets in the world, in the coming days, as some stores in areas such as Xinjiang have reportedly been closed.

Some H&M stores in Beijing and Shanghai were seen with very few customers.

The day when H&M made the latest announcement was also the same day for the group to release its latest financial report.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that H&M reported a pretax loss for the December-February period, its fiscal first quarter, of 1.39 billion crowns ($159 million) against a year-earlier profit of 2.50 billion crowns.

H&M has 53 online markets out of its 74 markets. As of the end of February, H&M had 502 stores in China, ranking third in terms of the total number, after the US and Germany, according to the website. 

China accounted for 5.2 percent of H&M's total sales in 2020, the fourth-largest market after Germany, the US and the UK.

Chinese people and consumers have the right to make their own choices, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing on Tuesday, when asked whether Chinese netizens' boycott of enterprises like H&M were being promoted by the Chinese government.

Companies in China should avoid politicizing business matters like H&M did, Xu Guixiang, spokesperson of the regional government of Xinjiang, said at Monday's briefing.