Swedish fashion retailer H&M Group is mobilising its supply chain to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) to be delivered to hospitals and health care workers to help tackle widespread shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The retailer will utilise its supply chain capacity, including its “widespread purchasing operations and logistics capabilities,” to start delivering as soon as possible. In a statement, it added its supply chain teams around the world are now collectively supporting these initial efforts.

The move comes after newly-appointed CEO Helena Helmersson spoke with the European Union to offer the retailer’s help. After the communication, “H&M Group immediately started to prepare production of personal protective equipment for healthcare providers,” the retailer said.

Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at H&M Group, added: “The coronavirus is dramatically affecting each and every one of us, and H&M Group is, like many other organisations, trying our best to help in this extraordinary situation. We see this is as a first step in our efforts to support in any way we can. We are all in this together, and have to approach this as collectively as possible.” 

Inditex, the owner of brands including Zara and Bershka, is understood to be making a similar transition, with a report by Reuters claiming the company is “studying converting part of its textile manufacturing capacity in Spain to produce hospital gowns.”

It comes as a raft of apparel and footwear brands and retailers including Primark, H&M, Nike and Gap Inc, are temporarily closing stores and cutting opening hours as part of efforts to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

H&M temporarily closed its stores in the UK this weekend for an initial period of two weeks following similar moves elsewhere. Last week, the retailer reported a rise in first-quarter sales despite a negative impact in the second half from the Covid-19 outbreak. It has also closed a raft of stores across Europe.