BDS Bursts SodaStream's U.K. Bubble

Within days, major department store chain takes beverage machines, produced mainly in West Bank, off its shelves, and company's store in Brighton closes down.

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Scarlett Johansson representing SodaStream
Scarlett Johansson in ad for SodaStream. Credit: Courtesy of SodaStream

SodaStream, the Israel-based beverage machine maker being targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement because of its West Bank production plant, has suffered serious setbacks in recent days in Britain, the Jewish Chronicle reported Thursday.

John Lewis, one of the country's largest department store chains, and whose Oxford Street store in London has been targeted by biweekly BDS protests, announced it was taking SodaStream's flavored seltzer makers off its shelves. The Jewish Chronicle said the company's announcement came last week, and was attributed to "declining sales."

And on Monday, EcoStream, SodaStream's store in the tourist town Brighton, closed after facing weekly protests for two years.

A SodaStream U.K. spokeswoman said of EcoStream, "Following a two-year test period, the company has decided to focus its business efforts on other channels." She added that nationwide, SodaStream "is on a high growth pattern, with over 20 percent year-on-year growth and rolling out to new retail stores across the country."

In January SodaStream attracted a great deal of international notice – both favorable and unfavorable, depending on one's politics – when actress Scarlett Johansson resigned as ambassador for the British-based charity Oxfam after signing to appear in commercials for SodaStream. Oxfam had informed Johansson that she could not continue to represent the charity if she remained with SodaStream because of its facility in the West Bank, and Johansson chose SodaStream, saying her resignation from Oxfam stemmed from a "fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement."

SodaStream's corporate headquarters are in the city of Lod in central Israel, and it has 13 production plants, its primary one in Mishor Adumim in the West Bank. Its workforce in Mishor Adumim includes 500 Palestinians.

Company denies relocation rumors

Company officials denied rumors this week that it was planning to relocate the West Bank facility to southern Israel, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Sarah Colborne, director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which organized the protests against John Lewis and EcoStream, said on the group's website: "The news that SodaStream is closing its main UK store and that John Lewis is taking SodaStream products off its shelves is a major success for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. …

She added: "And UK retailers should note John Lewis’ decision to ditch SodaStream, and take heed of UK government business guidelines which warn companies of the potential reputational damage of trading with settlement firms."

Such warnings have been issued in recent weeks by Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Netherlands and Portugal, and 12 more EU countries have recently followed suit.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said on its website that it would continue pressuring other British retailers to stop selling SodaStream.

Regarding the EcoStream closure in Brighton, Simon Cobbs of Sussex Friends of Israel, which staged counter-protests in front of the shop, said, "EcoStream should have never opened in lefty-liberal Brighton in the first place, but it should have been given a chance."

A year ago the shop was reporting a 40 percent increase in sales, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

"Of course it's disappointing," said Cobbs. "People are very upset. The shop was never given a chance of fair trade."

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