By  on April 15, 2013

PARIS — Hennes & Mauritz AB said sales in comparable units fell by 12 percent in March, their sharpest monthly drop since the company began keeping track of the data, as unusually cold weather in Europe and North America kept customers out of stores.

“This has delayed the start of the season for the spring collections and sales have been negatively affected. The unusually cold weather has continued also in April, primarily in Europe,” the Swedish fast-fashion giant said.

The sales figures also suffered from an unfavorable comparison with the same period last year, when H&M registered its strongest comparable-sales increase in five years, boosted by good weather and a positive calendar effect.

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The drop was the largest since H&M began publishing comparable-sales figures in 2006, but a spokesman for the retailer said the data should be viewed over the entire season.

“Monthly sales figures tend to be volatile, especially during the spring, since the arrival of the warm weather differs between the years and also due to shifts in Easter and other holidays, and calendar differences between the years,” said Håcan Andersson.

“You should therefore look at the figures over a season and not pay too much attention to a single monthly figure,” he added.

Group sales including value added tax in local currencies fell by 4 percent compared to March 2012.

In the same month last year, H&M reported sales in comparable units were up 16 percent, and sales in local currencies soared 26 percent.

The retailer counted a total of 2,853 stores on March 31 versus 2,517 units on the same date last year.

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