// Edinburgh Woollen Mill hits back at Bangladesh association after threat to be blacklisted over price negotiations with suppliers
// The group, owned by billionaire Philip Day, engaged with suppliers with the “best of intentions”
Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM) has defended its position after the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) threatened to blacklist the company over its price negotiations with suppliers.
Philip Day’s retail group, which owns the likes of Bonmarche, Peacocks, Austin Reed and Jaeger, has insisted that it has been engaging with suppliers with “the best of intentions”.
The association said in a letter on Thursday that EWM should stop asking for discounts, otherwise it would be blocked from placing future orders with its members.
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A spokesman for EWM told Retail Gazette that the company had not received the letter until after it had appeared in local media and that it was the first time it had been contacted by the BGMEA.
“We only received the letter from the BGMEA today, and we are disappointed it has been shared more widely before we have had the chance to respond, consider the proposals, and work together to find a solution,” he said.
“When this global crisis hit, we had already paid for the majority of future stock, and we have since had productive discussions with individual suppliers about remaining stock.
“We have engaged with all our individual suppliers with openness, honesty, and the best of intentions, even when the circumstances are difficult.
“We are left with a very bitter taste in our mouth over the sincerity of this letter. We think their approach has been unproductive and uncollaborative.
“We also question why this letter was sent just before the holiday season of Eid, when much of Bangladesh is closed, which will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to have productive discussions.”
EWM joined the list of retailers negotiating with suppliers after the impact of Covid-19 became evident during lockdown.
The company said it had already paid for the majority of future stock when the crisis hit, but was now talking to manufacturers about the remainder.
“We have looked at literally every option on the table and worked hand-in-hand with all our suppliers to find solutions, but we also need to recognise that these are difficult and complicated issues,” it said.
“There are not simple problems, and every potential quick solution has long-term implications.
“If we took delivery of remaining unmade stock for the spring season with all our stores closed, this stock would only be stored for next year and depress 2021 orders.”
Meanwhile, the BGMEA said EWM has so far cancelled orders worth $8.22 million (£6.76 million) across five factories.
Most recently, Big 4 grocer Asda was criticised by an activist group for leaving factory workers in Bangladesh to go hungry by cancelling or suspending orders for its George clothing without full payment.
Anti-fast fashion activist group Remake accused Asda of the wrongdoing, as well as other retailers including Gap and Primark.
The petition said the retailers named have not yet promised to pay suppliers for all orders that were cancelled or paused as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic