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H&M Japan Moves Back to Tokyo; Stocks Rebound

H&M shutters temporary office in Osaka.

OSAKA — Hennes & Mauritz Japan has shuttered its temporary offices here and plans to reopen its Tokyo headquarters Wednesday, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.


The fast-fashion retailer announced Thursday that it was setting up a temporary Osaka office and offered to relocate any of its 800 employees and their families to western Japan after a 9-magnitude quake and destructive tsunami struck the northeastern part of the country. But only a limited number of those people took up the offer, and most employees returned to Tokyo on Tuesday, the spokeswoman said.

She said H&M still has not decided when it will open its network of Tokyo stores, which have also been closed since late last week. The spokeswoman said the stores are still being inspected for their safety and will most likely be reopened gradually. She said the retailer can’t quantify how much the closures will affect sales in the long term but it is prioritizing the safety of its employees and customers.

The H&M shift back to Tokyo is the latest example of how life in Japan’s capital is slowly resuming its normal rhythms as nuclear fears begin to recede. Many fashion houses and luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Christian Dior and Chanel reopened their headquarters and flagship stores Tuesday after the three-day weekend. Monday’s foot traffic along Omotesando Avenue and Harajuku seemed close to normal levels and shoppers were seen making purchases at Vuitton, Dior and Forever 21. H&M’s closed flagship drew some puzzled looks from passersby.

Retailers and brands still face some obstacles. Some have cut back on store opening hours to conserve energy as rolling power cuts are still taking place in outlying parts of the city. The aftershocks have died down in frequency but they still occur and could persist for weeks or months. The extent of the national disaster’s overall impact on consumers is a key concern. Just Monday Tiffany & Co. warned that the disaster would push its first-quarter sales in Japan down 15 percent.

Analysts at Nomura, analyzing the Tiffany announcement, said the American company has not factored in Japan’s “continued weakness” beyond the first quarter.

“Although [it’s] difficult to determine how the tragic situation in Japan will affect consumer spending (and for what length of time), we believe it is more realistic to reflect some continued weakness beyond 1Q,” the analysts wrote in a research report.

Meanwhile, Tokyo stocks rebounded Tuesday. The Nikkei 225 climbed 4.4 percent to end the session at 9,608.32.

Although Japan Fashion Week was canceled, one fashion brand forged ahead with its runway show on Tuesday. Several fashion editors braved the cold and rain to attend the fall-winter show of Etw. Vonneguet.

The brand’s designer, who goes by the name of Olga, showed a collection of six looks before staging a theatrical finale in which she received a live haircut as she wrote out messages on a tablet. The last of these, saying only, “Thank you,” garnered enthusiastic applause from the crowd.