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Obituary: Erling Persson of H&M

PARIS — Erling Persson, the founder of global fast-fashion phenomenon H&M, died Monday in Stockholm after a short illness. He was 85.<br><br>A company spokeswoman said the family declined to disclose details about services. Persson was chief...

PARIS — Erling Persson, the founder of global fast-fashion phenomenon H&M, died Monday in Stockholm after a short illness. He was 85.

A company spokeswoman said the family declined to disclose details about services. Persson was chief executive of the retail giant until 1982 and was succeeded by his son, Stefan, currently chairman of the board.

The elder Persson began his career as a salesman in Sweden. In 1947, inspired by high turnover, low-cost clothing stores he discovered during a visit to the U.S., Persson opened his first Hennes store, named after the Swedish word for “hers,” in Vasteras, about 70 miles west of Stockholm.

The women’s wear chain grew steadily in the Fifties and Sixties, expanding into Norway and Denmark. In 1968, Persson bought Mauritz Widforss, a Stockholm gun shop that also sold men’s wear, and changed the name to Hennes & Mauritz.

Today, H&M sells more than 500 million garments a year. The publicly traded firm operates some 810 stores in 14 countries and had 2001 volume of about $5 billion. It entered the U.S. market in 2000.

This story first appeared in the October 30, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.