Enforced Hugs Are Bad For Business, Finds Ted Baker

By Holly Brockwell on at

Retail chain Ted Baker's shares have fallen to a three-year low after accusations of enforced hugging by founder Ray Kelvin went public last week.

The BBC reports that shares fell by 15% after a petition signed by more than 2,500 staff and customers made headlines for its claims that the 62-year-old Kelvin behaves inappropriately at work:

"There are a lot of really positive things about working at Ted Baker but they’re often overshadowed by the ‘hugging’ and inappropriate touching and comments. I’ve seen the CEO ask young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears. I went to HR with a complaint and was told ‘that’s just what Ray’s like’.

The owner regularly makes sexual innuendos at staff, he stroke [sic] people’s necks, he took off his shirt on one occasion and talked about his sex life. So many people have left the business due to harassment, whether that be verbal, physical or sexual. Pursuing the issue through the 'proper' channels i.e. Human Resources, is hopelessly ineffective. They don't act on the reports."

Run on the Organise website for workplace campaigns, the petition has been declared a 'win' by the platform, on the basis that the company has announced an investigation:

 Ted Baker are launching a full independent investigation into the ‘culture of harassment’. And in a phone call to Organise they’ve said they’re ‘open to changing the way we do things’ when it comes to hugs.

Kelvin apparently refuses to show his face in photos, leading to lots of images of him peering out from behind things. That was probably all in good fun before this campaign came out and the pictures were used to accompany headlines about creeping on staff, after which they take on a much more sinister effect:

Image: screenshot

It's not looking great for Kelvin's public image: put together, a man who hides behind things both physically and metaphorically (Ted Baker is his made-up alter ego) being accused of inappropriately touching his staff starts to look pretty creepy indeed.

Looks like the petition's done its job, though: if a company won't act through the proper channels, hitting them in the share price certainly seems to work.

Main image: Housing Works Thrift Shops via Flickr CC