LONDON — Shares in British high street retailer Ted Baker closed down 15.1 percent to 15.50 pounds on the London Stock Exchange Monday, following a media report over the weekend that female employees want founder Ray Kelvin to keep his hands off them.
The stock price spiraled down after The Sunday Times of London published a story saying female staff at the fashion brand were fed up with “forced hugging,” inappropriate physical contact and sexually charged comments from Kelvin, who continues to run the company he founded in 1988.
Staff have started a petition for the behavior to stop, the paper said, and have called for the formation of an external body to hear their complaints. They accuse Ted Baker’s internal h.r. staff of failing to address workplace complaints.
In a statement responding to the allegations, Ted Baker said it has “always placed great importance on the company’s culture and owes everything to the commitment of our people. It is critically important to us that every member of our staff feels valued and respected at work.”
The company went on to say that Kelvin “greets many people he meets with a hug, be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague. Hugs have become part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon.
“Having very recently been made aware of the petition, we are now in dialogue with [staff] to understand the details and nature of the claims,” it added.
The company said it has “clear and robust” h.r. policies in place to provide employees with a wide range of reporting options for any issues that they might encounter. Ted Baker said it’s taking the claims seriously and will ensure that a thorough independent investigation is carried out.
In the first half ended Aug. 11, the company reported a 3.5 percent increase in group revenues to 306 million pounds. Ted Baker distributes across five continents via its own retail stores, wholesale and licensing. Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s both carry the collections.
It has 544 stores, concessions and outlets worldwide and offers merchandise ranging from men’s and women’s wear to accessories, children’s wear and items for the home. The company has long been a stock market darling because of its steady growth, safe, unremarkable styles, and robust distribution structure.
Kelvin, who keeps a low profile and refuses to have his face photographed, is ranked at number 244 on the 2018 Sunday Times Rich List. His net worth estimated to be 522 million pounds.
The accusations at Ted Baker come just a few weeks after Topshop tycoon Sir Philip Green was reported to have treated staff in the U.K. and the U.S. inappropriately.