FRANKFURT, April 15 Hennes & Mauritz (H&M)
, the world's second-biggest fashion retailer, supports
higher wages for textile workers in Bangladesh, its chief
executive said, but warned that higher costs could also prompt
some companies to go elsewhere.
"After all, many companies source from Bangladesh, not just
us. The country needs to take into account that jobs could be
lost to other countries," German daily newspaper Die Welt cited
CEO Karl-Johan Persson as saying in an interview published on
its website on Tuesday.
"In Bangladesh, the clothing industry offers 4 million jobs
that are relatively well paid compared with others. Textile
workers earn about as much as teachers," Persson said.
Faced with growing competition from even cheaper rivals such
as Britain's Primark and U.S. chain Forever 21, H&M has
been seeking to differentiate itself by stressing a commitment
to sustainability, including using more recycled materials and
organic cotton as well as campaigning for better wages.
It said last week that Bangladesh needed to speed up
inspections of its garment industry, almost a year after the
collapse of a factory that killed more than 1,100 people. It has
also been lobbying officials in Cambodia to raise minimum wages.
Persson told Die Welt that the Swedish government and labour
groups were also encouraging H&M to source more from Africa.
"We are testing countries like Kenya and Ethiopia. But those
are still very small orders," Persson said.
H&M has said a drive to increase wages for Asian clothing
workers was likely to dent its profitability as weak consumer
demand and stiff competition made it hard to pass on costs to
It has been responding to competition by broadening its
product offering, rolling out new mid-market brands such as COS
and & Other Stories and investing in its online offering.
Persson told Die Welt that H&M was "very happy" with margins
at COS, that the online business was "very profitable" and that
the company could expand into further new market segments after
recently adding home textiles.
"We have some ideas in the company. But it is too early to
talk about them," he said.
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Alison Williams)