H&M stores are closing across China as the country-wide backlash against the fast-fashion retailer threatens the fate of its fourth largest market.
Retail landlords have reportedly shut down at least six H&M stores in Urumqi, Yinchuan, Changchun and Lianyungang after the retailer became embroiled in a growing boycott of Western brands, Bloomberg reported.
It is understood that local Chinese media has reported even more store closures, including images of H&M’s branding and billboards being removed from facias.
Last week Nike, H&M, Burberry and other major brands faced boycotts and furious backlashes on Chinese social media after stating they held concerns about the forced labour of Uighurs.
It came after the UK, EU, US and Canada voted to impose sanctions on China amid ongoing reports of forced labour, mass sterilisation of women and a raft of other human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
In response to the sanctions, any brands who have stopped using cotton from the region or spoken out against alleged forced labour have been accused of spreading “lies and disinformation” about China.
Like many international fashion retailers, China is an increasingly important market for H&M, accounting for 5.2 per cent of its total sales in 2020 making it the fourth largest market after Germany, the US and the UK.
H&M’s outlets are also understood to have been taken off Apple and Baidu Maps in China, while the brand has been removed from Chinese ecommerce platforms.
The US has accused China of running a state-sponsored “corporate and consumer boycott” against all Western brands that have refused to use cotton from the Xinjiang region.
The list of companies on China’s “black list” has continued to grow, while other brands like Hugo Boss face pressure from both sides to make their position clear.