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Zalando, ASOS, Next and Very "de-list" Boohoo over Leicester allegations

Lauretta Roberts
07 July 2020

Zalando, ASOS, Next and Very.co.uk are among the retailers to say they will no longer stock British fast fashion brand Boohoo over allegations of mistreatment of staff at a Leicester factory.

ASOS is reported to have suspended sales of Boohoo's brands including Boohoo, Nasty Gal and PrettyLittleThing, while an investigation is carried out into the allegations made by The Sunday Times that staff at one factory were paid just £3.50 an hour and had no additional safety protections during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Manchester-based group's brands are no longer listed on the ASOS site and a search for Boohoo sends users directly to ASOS's own brand.

Zalando has said it will cease sale of the brands indefinitely until it is satisfied the issues addressed in the newspaper article have been addressed. “In response to the allegations against Boohoo regarding worker rights during Covid-19 in factories in Leicester, Zalando has made the decision to delist all products by Boohoo Group and subsidiaries and pause all new business with Boohoo effective 7 July,” it said.

“During the coronavirus crisis, the health and safety of our employees has remained of utmost importance to Zalando. We adjusted to this 'new normal' with strict preventative measures to keep all employees safe while staying open for business.

“We expect our partners to apply similar fundamental priorities and will distance ourselves from those who don’t.”

Meanwhile Next said it believed Boohoo "had a case to answer" following similar allegations made by campaign group Labour Behind the Label last week, but said it was not pre-judging the outcome of its own investigation "and no final decision has been made”.

A spokesperson said: “Next concluded there is a case for Boohoo Group to answer.

“Next needs to prove to itself the two Boohoo Group labels that it was stocking are being sourced in a manner that is appropriate and acceptable to Next.

“Next therefore has its own investigation under way to ascertain whether they are being made in a way that Next does not approve of.”

Very.co.uk also joined the movement saying it had temporarily suspended Boohoo brands from sale, save those such as Warehouse and Oasis which were produced before Boohoo acquired the brand, while it awaited an outcome from the company's promised investigation.

In response to the allegations made in the article that workers had been mistreated at a factory bearing the brand name "Jaswal Fashions", Boohoo issued a statement yesterday promising an investigation.

"We are grateful to The Sunday Times for highlighting the conditions at Jaswal Fashions, which, if as observed and reported by the undercover reporter, are totally unacceptable and fall woefully short of any standards acceptable in any workplace. Our early investigations have revealed that Jaswal Fashions is not a declared supplier and is also no longer trading as a garment manufacturer.

"It therefore appears that a different company is using Jaswal's former premises and we are currently trying to establish the identity of this company. We are taking immediate action to thoroughly investigate how our garments were in their hands, will ensure that our suppliers immediately cease working with this company, and we will urgently review our relationship with any suppliers who have sub-contracted work to the manufacturer in question.

"We are keen and willing to work with local officials to raise standards because we are absolutely committed to eradicating any instance of non-compliance and to ensuring that the actions of a few do not continue to undermine the excellent work of many of our suppliers in the area, who provide good jobs and good working conditions," its statement said.

However investor Liberum said the response "did not go far enough". “The statement only really speaks of investigating the particular factory in question and raises the question of how many other breaches management is potentially unaware of," it said.

More than £1bn was wiped off Boohoo's share price yesterday as shares fell nearly 24%. Shares tumbled a further 12% today to 261.4p.

Boohoo declined to comment.

Additional reporting: PA Media

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