STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Sweden's H&M, the world's second biggest fashion retailer, said on Sunday it would use its vast supply network to source personal protective equipment for hospitals in the European Union to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
H&M said it had offered the EU its help and was now trying to understand which needs were most urgent while working out what its supply chain could deliver.
"The EU has asked us to share our purchasing operations and logistics capabilities in order to source supplies, but in this urgent initial phase, we will donate the supplies," a H&M spokeswoman said in an email.
H&M, which has temporarily shut its stores in many of its markets due to the pandemic, has suppliers around the globe, but mostly in China and other Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
H&M said it had been informed that protective masks were the main priority, but gowns and gloves were also badly needed.
Many countries have already run short, of protective gear for health workers and of equipment crucial in the treatment of severe coronavirus cases.
Some are drafting automakers and aerospace manufacturers to repurpose factories to produce ventilators.
Last week H&M's biggest rival Inditex, which owns the Zara brand, offered to make hospital garments, or scrubs, for stretched hospitals in its home country, Spain, and also make its vast logistics and supplier network available to meet Spain's needs of protective masks, gloves, goggles and caps.
More than 305,000 people have been confirmed to have the virus around the world, and more than 13,000 have died.
H&M said it would initially deliver to the countries where the EU saw the greatest need, which could be inside or outside the bloc.
By Anna Ringstrom; editor: Kevin Liffey