Shares in Ted Baker fell over 10% on Monday morning after a petition emerged accusing the group’s owner of inappropriate comments and behaviour.
An online petition, which has 2,500 signatures, calls for the “end of forced ‘hugging’ by the CEO. It is part of a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged.”
The company has launched an investigation into the claims but has defended founder and chief executive, Ray Kelvin.
“It is critically important to us that every member of our staff feels valued and respected at work,” said Ted Baker in a statement.
“Ray 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.”
“We have very clear and robust HR policies in place to provide all employees with a wide range of reporting options for any issues that they might encounter, including a completely confidential and anonymous 24/7 helpline,” the retailer said.
“While the claims made are entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO, we take them very seriously and will ensure that a thorough independent investigation is carried out. We will then carefully consider the content and recommendations of that report.”
The firm is due to release a trading update on Thursday. The FTSE-250-listed group has 544 stores worldwide and Kelvin is worth around £522 million.
The store is named after Kelvin’s alter-ego. The retailer’s boss refuses to have his full face photographed.
Shares in Ted Baker (LON: TED) are trading down 13.01% at 1.588,50 (1139GMT). The stock has roughly halved since March.