Amid Medical Supply Shortages, How H&M Is Helping

As hospitals suffer from medical supply shortages, H&M is offering up its supply chain.

The Swedish-based retail giant is using its network to source personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals in the European Union that are short on supply. PPE needed include gloves and gowns, with N95 masks as the most critical priority.

H&M said it is helping the EU to source supplies by using its purchasing operations and logistics capabilities. It is also donating an initial batch of supplies.

Many countries, including EU members as well as the U.S., are running low on medical gear as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, and the fashion industry is pitching in.

Inditex, parent to H&M’s fast-fashion rival Zara, last week offered to help source masks, caps, gloves and goggles to help its home country of Spain and to make scrubs. Luxury conglomerates Kering and LVMH have each donated millions of face masks to French health authorities, while numerous U.S.-based fashion designers, including Prabal Gurung, Brandon Maxwell and Christian Siriano, are working to make face masks to curb New York’s shortage.

All stores in H&M’s biggest markets, including Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, have closed for now due to the coronavirus. In total, 3,441 of the group’s 5,062 outposts are shut now.

With stores closed for the time being in response to government guidelines, H&M said that it has seen a “significant negative impact” on revenues so far in March, despite e-commerce operations remaining functional. This is coupled with “subdued” demand in the markets that remain open.

The fast-fashion brand said on Monday that is reviewing its operational costs and taking “several measures” in the areas of buying, investments, rents and staffing. It is assessing the situation on a market-by-market basis, taking into consideration local conditions. The company has begun discussions regarding temporary layoffs in the most severely stricken areas. Staff reductions could impact tens of thousands of employees across “all parts of the business.”

Internationally, more than 407,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. More than 18,200 deaths have so far been recorded.

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