Business Briefing

H&M and Nike face boycott in China over Xinjiang sanctions

Alan Turing £50 note is unveiled, eight John Lewis stores to close, and other breaking business news

1

Retail 

‘Wishful thinking’: Chinese hit back at cotton statements

H&M and Nike are facing boycotts and backlash in China after “concerns” were expressed over the alleged use of forced Uighur labour in cotton production in Xinjiang. 

The fashion giants’s statements on Xinjiang cotton production are “thought to have been made last year”, says Retail Week. However, they have resurfaced after sanctions were imposed by several Western countries. 

Many Chinese have called for boycotts, celebrities have cut ties, and e-commerce platforms have dropped H&M, the BBC reports. And today on China’s social media platform Weibo, Nike was one of the top trends.

Sharing screenshots of H&M’s statement, The Communist Youth League, a Chinese Communist Party group, said: “Spreading rumours to boycott Xinjiang cotton, while also wanting to make money in China? Wishful thinking!”

2

Books 

Bloomsbury issues profit upgrade after ‘lockdown reading boom’

Bloomsbury, publisher of the Harry Potter book series, has announced that its profits for the year ending 28 February are “significantly ahead” of its already upgraded forecast of £14.8m.

The publishing house expects full-year revenue to beat revised expectations of £171m, thanks to a “lockdown reading boom”, The Guardian reports. Chief executive Nigel Newton said the popularity of reading during the pandemic was a “ray of sunshine in an otherwise very dark last year”. 

February saw an “exceptional sales performance” as the surge in reading continued. However, the company “do not yet know” if the reading boom will end when lockdown restrictions are lifted. 

3

Banking 

£50 Alan Turing note

New £50 Alan Turing note is unveiled

Designs for the new £50 note featuring computer scientist and codebreaker Alan Turing have been revealed today by the Bank of England. The note, which is made of polymer and contains advanced security features, will be issued for the first time on 23 June - the late scientist’s birthday.

A leading mathematician and developmental biologist, Turing is best known for his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, which helped end the Second World War. He was also gay and “treated appallingly as a result”, the bank said in a statement. Bank governor Andrew Bailey says that by placing Turing on the new £50 note “we are celebrating his achievements, and the values he symbolises”.

Older paper £50 notes can still be used but notice will be given at least six months ahead of the date they are withdrawn from circulation. 

4

Retail

1,500 jobs at risk after John Lewis closures

Eight John Lewis stores will remain permanently closed despite lockdown restrictions easing next month. A total of 1,465 jobs will be at risk with the shutting down of the department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York and dedicated At Home outlets in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells.

The decision will deliver a “devastating blow to towns and cities across the country”, The Times says, and the closures mean that the number of John Lewis shops in the UK will fall by almost a third to 34.

5

Trade 

vesselfinder.com

vesselfinder.com

Suez Canal: 150 ships queue as Ever Given rescue continues

Rescue efforts to dislodge the giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal could take days or even weeks, according to experts. The ship, Ever Given, has been stuck like a “beached whale” since Tuesday and Reuters reports that tug boats are working to drag the vessel to deeper water.

At least 150 ships are now queueing to pass through the key shipping route - and the delays mean that “millions of gallons of oil and millions of tonnes of goods” are being held up, Sky News says. 

Dredging and heavylift company Boskalis is one of the firms helping to free the Ever Given and CEO Peter Berdowski told Dutch TV program Nieuwsuur that it was too early to say how long it would take. “We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” he said. 

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