Ted Baker enjoys strong Christmas sales amid ‘forced hugs’ allegations | Business

Ted Baker has shrugged off concerns about a culture of “forced hugs” under its founder, Ray Kelvin, delivering strong sales growth over Christmas despite the revelations.

Retail sales increased 12.2% in the five weeks to 5 January, after a 5% increase in retail space, as the fashion brand clocked up strong growth online.

Lindsay Page, acting chief executive, said men’s and women’s coats, jackets and knitwear had all sold well as the weather became chillier after a tricky autumn season marked by unseasonably warm weather.

“The Ted Baker brand has delivered a good performance across both our stores and e-commerce business, despite the continuing challenging external trading conditions across our markets,” he said. “This result again reflects the strength of the brand and the quality of our collections.”

Page added that the company had also invested heavily in logistics and infrastructure, which played an important role as shoppers demanded more home deliveries.

He said there had been more discounting in the clothing market and Ted Baker had moved its sale a day earlier, but overall the company had not cut prices any more than expected.

Asked if the accusations by staff and former workers of harassment by Kelvin had affected business, Page said: “The numbers suggest not.” Nor had there been any reports from staff of anger among shoppers. “Quite the contrary, customers have been very supportive.”

Kelvin took a leave of absence in early December after about 300 former and current staff signed a petition on the campaigning site Organise complaining about behaviour including forced hugs and ear kissing. Organise said it had sent about 100 anonymised reports of alleged harassment to the Ted Baker board.

News of the claims wiped £116m off the value of the company on fears that Kelvin would leave. The shares rose 13% on Wednesday to £18.27, taking them near the level at which they were trading before the allegations emerged.

Ted Baker’s board of directors appointed the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills to carry out an independent investigation into the allegations. The company said the investigation is progressing and there would be a further update “in due course”.

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