Tag Archives: Special Reports

Merkel’s final stand: how rebel states are hurting Germany’s COVID response | Instant News

BERLIN (Reuters) – It was shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday, March 22 when Angela Merkel asked for a respite after hours of dead-end discussions with her deputy and 16 German prime ministers on how to stop the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefs the media after virtual meeting with the chancellor’s federal state governors in Berlin, Germany, March 30, 2021. Markus Schreiber / Pool via REUTERS

After winning international acclaim for its initial response to last year’s pandemic, Germany is struggling. The number of patients in intensive care was approaching the peak of the first wave of the previous year, and vaccine rollout was progressing very slowly.

Merkel, in the final months of her 16-year rule, told the prime minister she wanted to extend the national lockdown and tighten movement restrictions, effectively confining Germans in their homes during the upcoming Easter holidays.

The leaders of the country are not all games. Some rejected plans for its chief of staff, Helge Braun, to impose a curfew. Others, from the north, wanted vacations on the condition that they were allowed.

“That’s not the right answer at this time,” Merkel sighed in front of a giant screen showing 14 regional leaders attending virtually the meeting.

A year after the pandemic, Germany’s patchy federal system is beginning to break down. The union between Berlin and the regions that marked the first year of the crisis unraveled as many of the state’s prime ministers, facing pressure from business and voters, urged life to return to normal.

The approach to federal elections in September has strained those political threads even further.

State leaders including North Rhine-Westphalia prime minister Armin Laschet, the chairman of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and his future successor, are more eager to open up as they await elections in September, when Merkel resigns.

Merkel, by contrast, who doesn’t have to face voter rulings anymore, wants to multiply with her push for tougher action. He even publicly criticized Laschet for the lax restriction policies in his state.

Fractured federal-state relations are not entirely to blame for Germany’s groping pandemic response: Berlin has also been accused of being cautious and investing too much faith in the European Union for its vaccine rollout. But they have become an obstacle to taking swift and coordinated action as patience is running low on all sides, resulting in policy changes and waning support for Merkel’s conservative camp.

The increasingly strained relationship between Merkel and the country’s leaders “has only exacerbated the pandemic of mismanagement and is again hurting the CDU and CSU,” said Naz Masraff of political risk consultancy Eurasia.


Irritated by the deadlock at last week’s talks, Merkel turned to her chief of staff Braun, a 48-year-old doctor with intensive care experience, and asked her other advice.

The break is planned for 15 minutes but lasts six hours. The Conservative and Social Democrat Prime Ministers split into separate chatter. Hanging on the left, Bodo Ramelow, Prime Minister of Linke’s far left in Thuringia, turns to Reiner Haseloff of neighboring Saxony Anhalt, and they spend their time exploring the different screen backgrounds of the video conferencing.

Finally, Braun came back with plans to turn off the circuit breakers for five days during Easter. Since shops in Germany are already closed on Easter Friday, Sunday and Monday, they only need to be closed for two extra days – Thursday and Saturday. Merkel implemented the plan by state leaders and Deputy Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the leftist candidate for Chancellor of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

They agreed that Merkel closed the meeting at 2.30am, and presented the plan to journalists with the prime ministers of Bavaria and Berlin.

Then the trouble started. Merkel’s own broader camp balked at it.

At 10:45 am Alexander Dobrindt, deputy leader of his conservative bloc in parliament, called for “remedial”. Then Interior Minister Horst Seehofer complained that churches would be reduced to online services at Easter.

Resistance grew and on Wednesday morning Merkel made a swift and extraordinary decision: cancel the plan. Calling the state prime minister again online, he informed them of the turnaround and at 12:30 pm spoke to the nation.

“This fault is mine alone,” he said of the chancellor. “I ask forgiveness from all citizens of the country.”


The unusual four-minute mea culpa proved to be a clever tactic. Merkel won praise from both her own camp and the opposition for her honesty, and attention quickly focused on the country’s leaders – who approved of the plan – and on the dysfunction of their meetings with the chancellor.

“What some commentators see as a sign of weakness is actually a way to go from the point of defense to attack,” said a person close to Merkel, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The point of attack was aimed at the state prime minister. Even Laschet did not escape.

In her talk show Sunday evening, Merkel accused her and several other state leaders of ignoring a March 3 agreement on how to manage the national lockdown.

As federal territories hold power over health and safety issues, Merkel, still Germany’s most popular politician, uses such name-and-shame tactics to persuade the country’s leaders to take tougher action.

His popularity is helping: a survey by Civey’s poll for the Augsburger Allgemeine daily showed two-thirds of the 5,002 people questioned this week supported Merkel’s approach and believed she should intervene more strongly in the state’s pandemic response.

He gained traction.

On Tuesday, Brandenburg tightened its guidelines and Laschet said his country had imposed a so-called “emergency brake” by asking people to test negative before visiting several shops.

While the politicians are fighting, time is running short.

German vaccine supplies will increase from April, although changing guidance on AstraZeneca injections has led many Germans to stop doing it. The country’s leading virologist has warned that tougher lockdowns will be needed. Nothing to see.

That determination hurts the CDU / CSU alliance, which has dropped 10 points in opinion polls since early February.

“We are in a very sad state at the moment, and we have to get out of it,” complained a conservative lawmaker. “I’ve never had a mood like this in our ranks before.”

Written by Paul Carrel; Edited by Alexandra Hudson


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In Brazil, an indigenous woman joins Bolsonaro in the struggle for mining | Instant News

RAPOSA SERRA DO SOL, Brazil (Reuters) – Irisnaide Silva is female, Brazilian and native.

Irisnaide Silva, 32, an Indigenous leader of one of the two main indigenous groups in Roraima state in the Amazon, gestures at the Raposa Serra do Sol reservation, Roraima state, Brazil, October 5, 2020. Image taken October 5, 2020. REUTERS / Leonardo Benassatto NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

And for once, in her sight, she was heard.

For decades his family selected and panned the border near Venezuela, scouring the hills for diamonds and gold.

They continued digging even after Brazil marked the land in 2005 as indigenous territory, an act that banned mining despite protests from his family and other wildlife in his Macuxi tribe.

Now, Silva is none other than the ear of Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil.

A nationalist who deeply resents the global green movement for his desire to develop the Amazon rainforest, Bolsonaro has twice met Silva in the Brazilian capital.

He first saw him, along with several like-minded tribal leaders, soon after taking power in January 2019 discussing a bill that would allow mining on native land.

“Some people want you to stay on indigenous territories like prehistoric animals,” Bolsonaro said at the meeting. “Below the ground you have billions or trillions of dollars.”

Silva, 32, heads one of the two main indigenous groups in the Amazon state of Roraima. But other groups, and many other indigenous associations, see him as traitors manipulated by greedy intruders seeking to seize land and resources.

He doesn’t care.

“I’ve been called a white Indian,” Silva told Reuters of the chicks chirping in his steel-roofed home in the Raposa Serra do Sol reserve. Although his mixed-race background was unusual, critics used it to question his credibility.

“Others say I can’t lead because I’m a woman.”

His drive for development – and Bolsonaro’s desire to activate it – goes far beyond questions about mining and material wealth. It challenged decades of government policies trying to deter intruders and sparked a historical debate over whether some of the world’s most isolated tribes should be integrated into modern society or left alone, along with the Amazon.

Larger than Western Europe and home to nearly all of Brazil’s indigenous lands, the world’s largest rainforest is a bulwark against climate change, its vegetation serving as a giant filter for greenhouse gases.

The native land makes up 13% of Brazil – a protected area roughly the size of Egypt. But with indigenous people making up less than 0.5% of Brazil’s population, agricultural and mining groups have long watched this low-population area voraciously.

It is unclear whether Bolsonaro’s bill will pass the tough Brazilian Congress or how profitable mining is on this land. But the timing has never been more favorable for the president, with allies recently winning leadership in both assemblies and the COVID-hit economy desperately in need of investment. Bolsonaro has made the bill a priority for 2021.

By working with several indigenous people, activists say he is exacerbating tensions within tribes through division and conquest methods that have historically helped destroy native lands around the world.

“Bolsonaro is using a colonial strategy,” said Antenor Vaz, a former veteran field agent for Brazil’s customary affairs agency Funai.


The prospect of legalization has led thousands of prospectors to venture into indigenous territories.

The Bolsonaro bill lays down a regulatory framework to open up this area to legal mining for the first time. Controversially, it will not give indigenous peoples veto power.

Many indigenous communities continue to lead rural lifestyles, pursuing little modern development beyond small-scale agriculture. But Silva and people like him believe that natives have the same rights as other Brazilians to exploit their resources.

The state of Roraima, with a small mining industry due to its large reserves, is already attracting investors. Anastase Papoortzis, head of state development company Codesaima, told Reuters the company had 29 exploration permits in indigenous territories and would attend a mining fair in Canada this year.

“It’s been set for us to go and present Roraima as a new mining frontier, the new El Dorado,” he said.

Lust for treasure, and the destruction it causes, has shaped this northern part of the Amazon basin since the Europeans arrived in the 18th century. Early maps even place El Dorado, the legendary city of gold, somewhere between green hills and scarred purple stone.

Since then the seekers have come.

In the 1950s, Silva’s grandfather arrived from northeast Brazil to try his luck. He married a local Macuxi woman and started a family. Silva Celson’s father, now 68, has been out digging with his father since the age of eight.

Silva was also looking forward to his childhood, but only during the holidays because his father insisted he stay at school, walking three hours a day to attend class. “I’m still mine sometimes,” she said, “but it’s bad for my nails.”

In the 2000s, when he finished school and was trained to become a teacher, indigenous factions competed over how to protect their homeland. The struggle at Raposa Serra do Sol has become a symbol of the Brazilian debate on indigenous policies.

While the larger Roraima Adat Council (CIR) wants sustainable nature reserves that remove outsiders from the area, Silva’s Society for the Defense of the United Indians of Roraima (Sodiurr) believes peasants should be allowed to stay, defining tribal areas as islands in around them. property.

Sodiurr argues that rice and cow farmers, who moved there in the previous decades, brought jobs and development.

After April 15, 2005, when the government ratified the Raposa Serra do Sol as a sustainable nature reserve, many farmers resisted eviction. Sporadic attacks on indigenous enemies raged for several years, injuring more than a dozen people.


Silva didn’t fight, but it did inform his politics.

After a tenure as a city councilor, he won the leadership election of Sodiurr in 2019 and amplified his pro-development, pro-integration message. As he put it: “Nobody here wants to walk around with their sobs.”

He has expanded their social media presence and aligned organizations with right-wing state and federal governments.

Membership has also increased, according to Silva. Seven communities have changed allegiance, leaving CIR to join him, while eight others are in conversation, he said. There are about 350 indigenous communities in the state.

Edinho Batista de Souza, a CIR leader, said he was not aware the community was changing sides.

“The presidency (Sodiurr) does not speak the same language as the people,” he told Reuters. “The government is trying to manipulate some of the leaders, including the president, but the bases don’t agree with this idea.”

Although Sodiurr’s membership is less than half the CIR, smaller organizations now have support in Brasilia.

“It’s an old problem, but they used to be in the minority, now they have the President of the Republic … now they are in power,” said Marcio Meira, a former head of Funai who worked closely with both sides during the demarcation.

Funai, responding to a Reuters question, said he did not know the size of each group or how they might change. He declined to comment on the competition, other than saying it did not condone violence.

Bolsonaro’s agenda appears to trigger change before a vote on his mining bill.

Near Napoleao, a customary town of 1,200 people in the mountains south of Raposa Serra do Sol, workers sweat from dawn to dusk, cutting deep into the rocks.

Some have pneumatic workouts, but most chase purple veins with only muscles and pickaxes. Miners of wood from the rock face, bent under the lucky sack.

The “mountains”, as the five feral cat mines are known, have been running since July 2019. It has driven the change that Silva so desperately wants.

The city gets 4% of mining profits, according to Carpejane Lima, 38, the town’s traditional leader and ally of Silva. The diggers took 74% and those with the machines to extract gold took the last 22%.

“The power company has cut off electricity because we can’t pay the bills,” said Lima, in the shade of a mango tree. Now a cavalry of diesel generators is turning next to the general store which is reopening. Across the street, there is a stand selling replica soccer shirts.

“We can make this a prosperous city,” said Lima, a 48 gram gold bracelet gleaming on her wrist.

But mining brings in outsiders. Some tribes have the skills or capital needed to crush and process ore. This arrival, say critics, brought drugs, prostitution and disease. Mercury, which is used to separate gold, also appears at alarming levels in the blood of some indigenous people.

Since Bolsonaro was elected, CIR said 2,000 miners had trespassed on Raposa Serra do Sol to work on mines like this. Silva emphasized that only the native wild in the country.

In a hole by the river near Silva’s house, where his father lived under a tarp for weeks, a small group dug in the scorching sun.

“We will fight for what is ours,” said Celson. “If people who don’t belong come here to try and stop us, there will be blood.”

Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Additional reporting by Leonardo Benassatto; Edited by Brad Haynes and Andrew Cawthorne


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Divided on to Draghi, the Italian 5 Star is experiencing an identity crisis | Instant News

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s 5 Star Movement, once the prototype for successful populist and anti-establishment parties across Europe, is at a crossroads. Is it fully embracing the political mainstream, or turning back to being an outsider?

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi drinks during a debate in the Senate ahead of a vote of confidence for the government, in Rome, Italy, February 17, 2021. REUTERS / Yara Nardi / Pool / File Photo

With support dwindling, his fate could shape Italian politics for years to come, and the battle lines for his future have been drawn.

When the head of state asked the former head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi on February 2 to try to form a government, and end the Italian political stalemate, the 5-Star leadership immediately shelved its support.

But its founder, 72-year-old former comedian Beppe Grillo, had other ideas. Four days later, he was rushing from his home in Genoa to attend a crisis meeting in Rome with some 30 top 5-Star MPs.

At a meeting in a conference room in the capital’s labyrinthine Deputy Chamber, he explained that the original 5-Star decision had to be overturned, according to a lawmaker present.

“When we walked in Grillo was pretending to be talking to someone on the phone; It’s a kind of comedy act, ”said the source, who declined to be named because the meeting was closed. “He’s discussing … why we should be part of the government.”

Some 5-star politicians and voters were very unhappy with the demands imposed by Grillo.

At Draghi’s first parliamentary vote on Wednesday, 23 of 92 5 Star senators opposed the party line and refused to support him. The interim leader of 5-Star Vito Crimi said most of them would be expelled.


If the 5-Star emerges from its crisis further weakening or turns into a mainstream progressive party, it could mark the end of the populist wave that swept through Italy in the last election and which worries financial markets and its European partners.

Matteo Salvini’s league has shifted out of the right flank to get behind Draghi.

In some ways, 5-Star follows a similar trajectory to other populist parties in Southern Europe such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain.

The three of them attain strength, but have been absorbed into the mainstream they vow to fight and watch their support wither.

“I don’t know what to call us now. Maybe an anti-establishment party ?, ”5-star lawmaker Raphael Raduzzi told Reuters. “We have to ask ourselves what we want to be.”

Grillo gave up day-to-day involvement in 5-Star affairs some five years ago, but when the big decisions had to be made, he was still the one to decide.

Shortly before his meeting with 5-star lawmakers, he wrote a blog post calling on the new government to appoint a transitional ecology minister with full responsibility for energy policy.

Grillo has spoken with Draghi and received assurances that this ministry will be created in exchange for 5-Star support, a source close to the 5-Star founder told Reuters.

Grillo, who communicates with the public primarily through his blog, declined to comment for this article.

Draghi’s spokesman confirmed Grillo and Draghi were talking about forming a government.

“They agreed on the importance of creating a government with a strong emphasis on ecological transitions,” he said.


Ecology has always been a central part of the 5-Star platform. It is one of the five “star” policies from which it takes its name. Sustainable transportation is another.

Italy, unlike Germany and France, has never had a successful Green party and Grillo is looking at the loophole in hopes of saving his party from gradual extinction.

Huge numbers and high aspirations were involved. The European Commission has ordered that policies to fight climate change should cover 37% of the Recovery Fund set up to help the bloc’s hard-hit economy, its single largest component.

In Italy’s case, that means 70 billion euros ($ 85 billion) to spend on the green transition over the next six years.

“Now the environment. Whatever it takes, “Grillo tweeted this week in the style of Draghi’s Andy Warhol, referring to the former ECB chief’s famous pledge in 2012 to do” whatever it takes “to save the euro.

The 5 star is the biggest force in parliament thanks to its victory in the 2018 election when it won 33% of the vote, double the tally of its closest rival.

It now has less than 15%, making it the fourth largest party in Italy, and is in dire need of a new identity.

He has four ministers in Draghi’s newly formed cabinet, but for many members, supporting the government of the former head of the ECB is unacceptable. Doing so in coalition with sworn enemies made matters worse.

Founded in 2009 as a channel for protest against alleged corruption and the cronyism of Italy’s political and business elite, 5 Bintang supports internet-based direct democracy and vows never to form alliances with traditional parties.

In the past three years it has ruled in two coalitions, with center right and left, and is now set to rule with both at once.

“For me this is a step too far,” said Raduzzi, the lower house deputy who opposes joining the technocrat government and career politician.


Raduzzi did not leave the party, unlike one of its most popular figures – Alessandro Di Battista – who frequently wrote articles attacking Draghi or members of his government.

Di Battista, a charismatic 42-year-old man, left after the decision to support Draghi, but his followers expect him to return when the time is right and see him as a future leader.

The battle for the future of the 5-Star will most likely be contested over the opposing visions of Di Battista on the one hand and Grillo on the other.

Grillo, for now in the driving seat, wants to turn 5-Star into a neighborhood, pro-EU party allied with the center-left Democrats to compete with Salvini’s right-hand bloc.

Di Battista wants 5 Stars to avoid structural alliances with the left and regain his old anti-establishment fervor, with a more critical attitude toward the EU and big business.

“I believe this government is committing suicide for the 5 Star Movement and bad for Italy,” Di Battista told Reuters. He did not rule out a return to 5 Star rank in the future.

The risk of the 5-Star, currently in the hands of the uncharismatic Criminal, is that whatever path the party takes, at the next election in 2023, its decline is irreversible.

The slump in 5-Star support is hardly surprising, given that they are also the anti-establishment party in government. Without enough seats in parliament to govern itself, the movement also joins either the left or the right.

Unlike the left-wing Syriza and Podemos, or the right-wing National Rally in France and the Austrian Freedom Party, the 5-Star has always presented itself as an ideological free movement with voters from the left and right alike.

Some political commentators believe that the best chance of a revival lies with former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has no party affiliation but is close to a 5-Star.

The message Conte posted on Facebook on his final day as prime minister received more than a million likes, a record for an Italian politician. He vowed to “continue the path” of his 16-month, left-wing rule in the future.

Millions of 5-star voters, and some of his politicians, expect him to do so as their leader.

($ 1 = 0.8275 euros)

Written by Gavin Jones; Edited by Mike Collett-White


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Doesn’t fit into the new era? The fate of formal fashion hangs by a thread | Instant News

MILAN / SYDNEY / LONDON (Reuters) – Italian luxury designer Brunello Cucinelli makes men’s suits that sell for up to 7,000 euros ($ 8,200). But even he – like most people around the world – hasn’t worn a suit for months, let alone bought one.

Cravats and bow ties are displayed for sale at Dege & Skinner tailors on Savile Row, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, England October 7, 2020. REUTERS / Hannah McKay

“We are all locked up at home, so this is the first jacket I have worn since March,” Cucinelli told Reuters in Milan as he presented his new collection in September, wearing a light gray blazer.

Most people in “white collar” jobs work from home, with a newfound love for sweatpants, a trend some experts hope to outlast the pandemic. And few, if any, weddings or parties are taking place.

This seismic shift in behavior has had a profound impact across the supply chain for suits and formal wear, boosting a fashion sector that spans every continent.

In Australia, the world’s largest producer of merino wool, prices plummeted, reaching their lowest point in a decade. Many sheep breeders are in trouble, keeping wool in every pen that is available in hopes of recovering it.

In northern Italy, wool mills that buy from farmers and weave cloth for high-end suits have seen their own orders from retailers take a dip.

In the United States and Europe, several retail chains specializing in business apparel such as Men’s Wearhouse, Brooks Brothers, and TM Lewin have closed stores or filed for bankruptcy over the past few months, and many more could follow.

Players at all levels have told Reuters they are being forced to adapt to survive, from farmers turning to other forms of agriculture to factories making more elastic fabrics to new types of clothing that wrinkle less and are more resistant to stains.

“People want to be more comfortable and less inclined to wear formal suits,” said Silvio Botto Poala, managing director of Lanificio Botto Giuseppe, a wool factory at the textile center Biella Italia that counts Armani, Max Mara, Ralph Lauren and Hermes among its customers.

“With Zoom conferences and smart work, you will see men wearing shirts, maybe even ties, but not many suits.”


The price of fine wool in Australia has more than halved during a turbulent 18-month period, as the usual healthy purchases of merino wool from Italian factories have almost stalled.

The benchmark price for merino wool fell to A $ 8.58 ($ 6.1) per kg in early September, auction results show, down from A $ 20.16 in early 2019. Since then, some have recovered to over A $ 10 .

Andrew Blanch, managing director of New England Wool in New South Wales, which sucks wool from farms for Italian textile makers, said many buyers now have excess supplies.

“They all have wool that needs to be thrown away before they even get back on the market here,” said Blanch, speaking by phone from a wool auction in Sydney’s western suburbs.

“If the shop doesn’t open, everyone just retreats. Many orders we buy from wool have recently been canceled by their clients in the US and throughout Europe. “

He said China, which along with Italy buys most of Australia’s annual wool exports for more than A $ 3 billion, is now “the only exhibition in town” although Chinese buyers are also getting less wool.

Many merino sheep breeders store their wool in sheds or storage facilities; although some people who are still emerging from a three-year drought sell their balances to weak markets in order to survive financially.

“Not everyone is big enough to hold their wool clips and wait for the prices to change,” said Dave Young, a farmer near the town of Yass in New South Wales. “We are in a position where we have to fill the market in a relatively short time after the price reduction.”

Young, who has about 4,500 sheep on his property, said he had refocused some operations to provide lamb.


The food chain is surging into northern Italy, and Botto Poala estimates his factory sales are down 25% from 63 million euros last year and they will take 2-3 years to recover.

However the business is isolated to some degree because most of it makes women’s clothing fabrics; others are more pessimistic.

“For some businesses, we are talking about a 50% -80% drop in sales,” said Ettore Piacenza, general manager of the Fratelli Piacenza wool factory, a centuries-old family business with an annual turnover of 52 million euros. He also heads the wool mill department of a local business association.

Botto Poala says more than 50% of his mill’s turnover now comes from wool which has been made more elastic by tilling it or adding lycra to it.

This is because whatever demand remains for a suit, it is more likely for fabrics that are more stain resistant and less wrinkled, while such fabrics can also be used for casual wear, the wool mill said.

Italian luxury label Etro, for example, recently launched a “24 hour jacket” made of jersey and combining wool and cotton.


The gradual movement towards casual clothing has been taking place over the years. In 2019, even Goldman Sachs – a bastion of custom-made suits – relaxed the dress code for its staff. Not to mention the rise of Silicon Valley’s hipsters.

But COVID has stepped up that change – increasing sales of comfortable and sportswear at the expense of business wear.

In the second quarter of this year, when much of the world was locked in, Nike became the hottest brand according to Lyst, a global fashion search platform that analyzes the behavior of more than nine million online shoppers every month.

This is the first time since the Lyst Index began that a luxury fashion brand has not occupied the top position.

Gap’s Athleta unit, which sells tights, jogging pants, sweaters and tracksuits, was the best performing fashion line in the three months to August 1. Sales were up 6%, compared to a 52% drop at Banana Republic, which is known for its more stylish outfits.

Clothing was ranked among the items with the highest discounts and lowest sales in France, Italy and Germany in September, according to data compiled by StyleSage, which combs prices on websites.

Cheaper labels for mid-market including Asos, Topman, Guess and Hugo Boss had the sharpest price drops, up to 50%.

Falling demand for office clothing led to a multistory of US retailers, also including Jos. A. Bank and J. Crew, filed for bankruptcy during the summer and more retailers face an uncertain future.

Retail consultancy Coresight Research estimates that 20,000 to 25,000 US stores could close by the end of the year, compared with around 9,800 in 2019.

“I admit I haven’t bought office clothes this year. “I can tell you the fact that walking around the City, there are very few lawsuits on display,” said James Whitaker, a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown in London.

Indeed business has been “very slow” even since the late closure of the company for Jasper Littman, a tailor trained on Savile Row, a famous London street for tailoring for men.

Littman said his clients, mostly lawyers and bankers, “sit at home in pajamas”.

She usually makes about 200 outfits a year, but has only made 63 so far in 2020.

Customers are reluctant to take the risk of taking the train to pick up even a suit that has been made with the deposit paid.

“There’s no point in them doing that, because they’ll be getting a coat they can’t wear.”

Reporting by Silvia Aloisi in Milan, Jonathan Barrett in Sydney and Martinne Geller in London; Additional reporting by Jill Gralow, Carolyn Cohn and Aleksandra Michalska; Edited by Pravin Char


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