The scandal that occurred a few years ago at Dolce & Gabbana in China is repeating to the clothing brand H&M, creating a disastrous loss for the Swedish brand.
H&M is a clothing giant with 5076 stores in 2019 and 126.376 employees in 2019 (source: statista.com)
For H&M the pandemic, meant an unavoidable decline in physical sales took place in 2020, however offset by a strong presence on e-commerce platforms, with the result that, even though the turnover fell by 18% worldwide, the turnover still remained. on 18.5 billion euros.
Counting a turnover of almost one billion euros between November 2019 and November 2020, China is the fourth largest market in the world for H&M.
A few weeks ago the top management of the company issued a statement, later withdrawn, in which they expressed "strong doubts" on the working conditions of cotton harvesters in the Xinjiang region and expressed their intention not to buy the cotton produced in that region.
This region produces 87% of Chinese cotton and 7% of world production. The workers mostly belong to the Uyghurs ethnic group, an ethnic minority of Muslim religion.
The accusation leveled against the Chinese apparatus is that of forcing this population to work in these fields in a forced manner, in conditions of almost slavery.
As I said, this statement was withdrawn and it seemed to end there.
Very recently, however, sanctions have been launched by the United States and the European Union for the same reason.
With an operation that is impressive in terms of speed, size and coordination, all the mass media have lined up in defense of national pride, many stores have closed in protest, virtually all influencers have suggested a boycott of purchases of H&M products.
What happened on social media was also impressive: with disarming timing, the Weibo network successfully launched the campaign: "I SUPPORT THE XINJIANG COTTON", at the same time H&M disappeared completely from social networks and in general from the web, to the point that it did not you can no longer even locate the stores.
H&M has also completely disappeared from e-commerce platforms including billionaire Jack Ma's multinational, Alibaba.
Despite the timid attempts to justify themselves (top management have declared that their concern was not for political purposes but only for sustainability), H&M sales in China have collapsed and, even if the Chinese establishment "forgives “H&M's image damage is so great that it is really difficult to imagine what the future of this company could be in the “middle country ”.
What is the idea that prompted me to write this article and which in turn I invite readers to do?
Certainly not determining who is right among the various states and the various companies involved in this affair, but once again underlining the enormous "power" that social media have.
Think about it for a moment: thanks to digital marketing, H&M (and many others like you) has continued to sell in China, indeed it is thanks to e-commerce that store losses have been contained.
Thanks to a digital move ("I support Xinjang cotton"), the image of H&M has been wiped out and the company's digital market has been wiped out for perhaps a long time.
By the way, after the fact of 2018, the apologies and a total rethinking of marketing and communication in January 2020 D&G had only recovered 50% of the turnover in China...
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