H&M Auckland opening: Crowds expected early

Protesters sit amongst the crowd outside NZ's newly-opened H&M store (Briar Marbeck / Newshub.)
Protesters sit amongst the crowd outside NZ's newly-opened H&M store (Briar Marbeck / Newshub.)

Crowds have attended the opening of New Zealand's first H&M store in Auckland. But amidst the excitement a group of protesters are reminding people of poor working conditions reported in many factories where major label clothes come from.

Protesters sat on the ground with their mouths taped shut, holding signs saying: "We are here to represent the silenced voices of workers" and "what are you really buying into?".

As local media at the event filmed the protest, H&M staff took their press passes away, citing security reasons. 

H&M Auckland opening: Crowds expected early

Protesters outside H&M (Briar Marbeck / Newshub.)

H&M Auckland opening: Crowds expected early

In the minutes leading up to the front doors opening, staff danced for waiting shoppers (Briar Marbeck / Newshub.).

It's the first H&M store in New Zealand, and one of two mass-market fashion chains opening here this week. Zara opens on October 6.

The first keen shoppers started lining up at the doors at the Sylvia Park shopping centre at 5pm on Friday night. By 9am on Saturday morning there were at least 600. 

The new openings come as consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets by choosing to buy more ethically-made products. H&M has been one of the clothing chains to face criticism for its connection to poor working conditions in its factories.

Research made by the Asia Floor Wage alliance in 2015 found that women in H&M supplier factories in Cambodia and India were routinely fired for becoming pregnant. 

An Australian survey, commissioned by Baptist World Aid, gives companies a simple letter grade based on their policies, supply chain, monitoring and worker empowerment. In its 2016 report, Zara scored A, H&M scored B+, Glassons and Topshop got C+, and Karen Walker got C.

"One of the most pressing issues for international businesses is managing the quality and ethical standards of supply chain partners - from the cotton field to coat-hanger," says Dr Maureen Benson-Rea at University of Auckland's business school.

A new book, edited by Dr Benson-Rea, says despite international efforts to reform the industry, reports keep coming of hazardous factories, 12-plus-hour days, and child labour.

She says while ethical fashion brands in New Zealand are more expensive, research shows they're financially sustainable and profitable because of loyal customer bases and reputations for transparency.

"If we are going to save and improve the lives of low paid workers in developing countries, consumers and company shareholders are going to have to pay more for new clothing," she says.

It is expected H&M will open more stores in New Zealand. It has 10 stores in Australia.

Sylvia Park sits at the junction of three major highways in Auckland and 12.6 million people visit it each year, spending a total of more than $455 million annually.

NZN / Newshub.