By  on April 19, 2006

PARIS — Poor weather conditions dampened sales for Hennes & Mauritz in March.

The Swedish fast-fashion retailer reported flat sales for the 31-day period, a hiccup in an almost year-long run of double-digit monthly sales increases. Like-for-like sales fell 8 percent in the month, the company said.

The company blamed cold weather and a late Easter for the group's soft start to spring. Easter fell in March in 2005, and the switch in the timing of the holiday this year also was a factor in weaker same-store sales among U.S. retailers last month.

"Cold weather and the fact that Easter was in April led this year to weak sales, especially in Central Europe," said Nils Vinge, the firm's director of investor relations.

In comparison, sales in March 2005 rose 20 percent, that year's strongest performance. Vinge explained that the sales increase then was also climate-related, noting that it was due, in part, to warm weather. "Weather affects [consumer] buying patterns," Vinge said. "One month is too short to judge a season. The weather is important, especially at the beginning of the season."

H&M's door count was 1,216 at the end of March, compared with 1,101 at the same time in 2005.

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