Next Pulls Boohoo Clothing From Web on Concern Over Labor Abuse

Next Plc has temporarily stopped selling Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing fashion on its website amid concerns over the exploitation of labor.

Boohoo Group Plc “has a case to answer” following reports that factories supplying the online retailer pay workers less than minimum wage and flouted coronavirus lockdown rules, Next spokesman Alistair Mackinnon-Musson said.

Next removed the products from its website last week. The company has begun its own investigation, Mackinnon-Musson said.

“Next is not pre-judging the outcome of this process and no final decision has been made,” he said. “However, while there is a case to answer, these labels will remain suspended from all Next websites.”

Other online retailers -- including Asos Plc and Very Group Ltd. in the U.K. and Zalando SA, a German fashion website -- have also temporarily suspended the sale of Boohoo products. Sarah Thomas, a spokeswoman for Zalando, said that only once “corrective actions have been satisfactorily addressed by Boohoo, can a conversation be revisited to discuss the commercial relationship between Zalando and the Boohoo group moving forward.”

Boohoo didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday Boohoo said it has launched its own investigation and will review its supply chain in Leicester, England, the site of a recent flareup in coronavirus infections. It has pledged to immediately terminate contracts with any suppliers who have breached its code of conduct.

Shares in Boohoo have plunged this week on concern it could face a formal investigation under Britain’s Modern Slavery Act. The U.K.’s National Crime Agency said on Monday that it had visited a number of business premises in the Leicester area “to assess concerns of modern slavery and human trafficking.” The agency didn’t identify the companies involved.

Boohoo shares have gained more than 70% in the past year. The company spends millions on endorsements from social media influencers and reality TV stars. PrettyLittleThing is one of the fashion brands on its site.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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