Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who fell asleep in H&M's PR department?

Was it weird coincidence that on the elevator to visiting my doctor this morning, the doors opened and it turned out H&M's US office were located there? Nobody was in the waiting room but perhaps everybody was in a meeting discussing an embarrassing article in the New York Times today.

According to Jim Dwyer's piece, a woman named Cynthia Magnus discovered that two Herald Square stores -- Wal-Mart and H&M -- were routinely cutting up unsold clothes and throwing them out in the evening for trash pickup.

"It is winter. A third of the city is poor. And unworn clothing is being destroyed nightly," Dwyer writes. He notes that right around the corner is a big collection point for New York Cares.

Wal-Mart's spokesperson Melissa Hill responded swiftly to reporter queries: the company normally donates all its unworn goods to charities, she says to Dwyer, and would have to investigate why the items found on 35th Street were discarded.

And H&M? Hello, H&M?

"This week, a manager in the H & M store on 34th Street said inquiries about its disposal practices had to be made to its United States headquarters. However, various officials did not respond to 10 inquiries made Tuesday by phone and e-mail."


"H & M, which is based in Sweden, has an executive in charge of corporate responsibility who leads the company’s sustainability efforts. On its Web site, H&M reports that to save paper, it has shrunk its shipping labels."

Double ouch!

I went to the H&M web site -- they certainly make their contact information very clear on the press section of the web site. It's hard to believe that not one executive or press rep returned Dwyer's queries.

It's press relations 101 that silence equals guilt.

Whether corporate headquarters knew about this or not, it is critical to respond immediately to the press, even if you say you'll investigate the matter, exactly what Wal-Mart did. To not respond at all is a complete corporate and public relations failure.

Whatever you may think of Wal-Mart, they took the high road of PR and took some air out of a growing menace.

With enough people linking to the New York Times story, Twittering and posting about this mess, a massive H&M backlash is right around the corner. Originally, I saw the story linked on Tameka Kee's Twitter feed. New York magazine already posted a pretty damning story on its "The Cut" fashion blog, and it's on Huffington Post too.

It is now Wednesday afternoon. Nobody at H&M has sprung into action to respond to the article, as far as I can see monitoring Google News. No sponsored links on Google. No statements to the press.

If H&M is concerned about seven consecutive monthly sales declines, as was just reported, wait until this black eye starts spreading across the face.


Chrystal K. said...

Are you kidding me? That's just crazy! Do you know how many people need clothes!?!?

DangerousDolly said...

Thanks! My reaction exactly, HOW can a world wide company fail to totally respond to something like that.

Unfortunately I haven't seen as many irritated ppl as I thought - let's just hope people have been voting with their wallet at least :)