Retail news around the globe

Rana Plaza watchdog to close

Bangladesh’s garment industry is facing potentially enormous losses as a group set up to improve worker health and safety is threatened with dissolution. The nation’s high court declared the Dhaka office of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety must close on November 30 following complaints by a factory owner that it disrupted his business.

The accord, which formed after the Savar building collapse at Rana Plaza killed more than 1100 people in 2013, undertakes to inspect factories for construction faults and other safety violations. It was eagerly embraced by foreign companies supplied by the Bangladesh garment industry, which is the second-largest in the world after China.

These foreign companies, which include major brands such as Esprit, H&M and Zara-owner Inditex, are supporters of the accord. If it fails, they say,  Bangladeshi products could become toxic to consumers.

Postal strike in Canada stalls deliveries

A month-long strike by Canada Post employees appears to be coming to an end, as legislation to force the workers back to the job has been introduced in Parliament.

Customers were already thinking twice about online Christmas shopping, despite many major retailers, such as Canada Goose Holdings and Lululemon Athletica, engaging couriers. Ordinarily, the post office delivers two-thirds of e-commerce in Canada.

At press time, the controversial legislation had passed in the lower house but was still under debate in the Senate.

Saving British shopping

British billionaire Mike Ashley, the CEO of Sports Direct and new boss of the House of Fraser chain, has demanded a meeting with the UK Parliament to seek more assistance for British retailing.

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Ashley is set to appear in front of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on December 3.

This is a different sort of Parliamentary appearance than Ashley’s last. Just two years ago, he was ordered to appear before MPs to explain why Sports Direct was paying some employees below the minimum wage.

Amazon opens pop-up in Spain

Amazon, the US online giant that has long been expected to end retailing as we have known it, has taken another tilt at bricks-and mortar, opening a pop-up store in Spain.

The new store, located in an old building in one of Madrid’s prime shopping districts, has been styled as a house with everything in it for sale – from electronic goods to video games to clothing. Amazon plans similar stores for Italy, Germany and Britain, Reuters reports.

Ikea rearranges workforce

Swedish furniture chain Ikea plans to cut 7500 jobs over the next couple of years, mainly administrative staff in central support functions, a move that will affect almost 5 per cent of its workforce.

At the same time, the group estimates it will create 11,500 new jobs during the period as it expands with new store formats and online, grows its service offering and invests in digital capabilities.

Gap to close hundreds of US stores

Gap Inc is looking to close hundreds of namesake brand stores across the US that are performing below expectations.

The US-based retailer has 775 Gap-branded stores globally, in addition to those under the Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta banners. Gap Inc has more than 3000 stores around the world.

The namesake brand, however, has been the weakest unit of the company of late. In the fiscal third quarter, sales at Gap stores open for at least 12 months fell 7 per cent, while those at Old Navy and Banana Republic were positive.

Dolce & Gabbana apologises to China

Italian luxury retailer Dolce & Gabbana’s co-founders have asked for China’s forgiveness, trying to salvage a crucial market for the luxury brand after a backlash against its latest advertising campaign.

Stefano Gabbana and  Domenico Dolce said they had “reflected seriously” on the ad, which showed a young Chinese woman trying, and failing, to eat Italian foods like pizza and spaghetti with chopsticks.

“In the face of our cultural misunderstanding, we hope that we can earn your forgiveness,” Dolce, speaking in Italian, said in the video of the two designers seated side-by-side.

The company cancelled a marquee show in Shanghai last week after celebrities and social media users threatened a boycott over the campaign.

Kingfisher to exit Russia, Spain and Portugal

Kingfisher, Europe’s second-largest home improvement retailer, said last Wednesday it would exit Russia, Spain and Portugal so it can focus on markets where it has, or can reach, a market-leading position, Reuters reports.

The UK group, which trades as B&Q and Screwfix in Britain and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and elsewhere, also reported a fall in underlying sales in its third quarter.

It said group like-for-like sales fell 1.3 per cent in the three months to October 31. That compares with a rise of 1.6 per cent in the previous quarter.

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