H&M London Hennes & Mauritz

PARIS — H&M reported fourth-quarter sales rose 9 percent with an extra boost from exchange rates.

Sales for the three months ended Nov. 30 were 61.7 million Swedish Kronor, or $6.58 billion, up 5 percent at constant currencies. The quarterly performance was adversely affected by calendar effects, with Black Friday falling a week later than last year. Some online sales from Black Friday will not be recorded until December, the company noted.

The performance fell a bit below consensus estimates, but showed improvement at the Swedish fast-fashion retailer, said analyst Richard Chamberlain at RBC Europe. 

H&M has continued its improvements in execution,” over the quarter, he said. But market conditions were tough, added Chamberlain.

Chamberlain estimates that for the industry, in-store sales for Germany, the largest market, were down around 4 percent while apparel sales were down 2.5 percent in Sweden. In the U.K., meanwhile, apparel sales likely recovered in October after a “very poor” September, and in the U.S., category leaders have been performing well while lagging labels have been relying on promotions to drive traffic.

The end-of-year shopping season last year was a challenge for many fast-fashion retailers, trapped in a discounting spiral.

H&M, which had struggled to off-load merchandise last year, has been undergoing a broad overhaul to modernize operations and bulk up services, especially online, as well as sprucing up its store formats.

Rival Inditex, which owns Zara, has been setting the pace for the fast-fashion industry, with plans for Internet sales for all of its brands all over the world by the end of next year, with same-day and next day delivery in major markets.

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