PARIS — Hennes & Mauritz AB said sales in comparable units rose by 16 percent in March, their strongest increase in five years, helped by favorable weather and a positive calendar effect.

 

However, the Swedish fast-fashion giant warned that the same factors would have “a very negative effect” in April.

 

Group sales including VAT in local currencies rose by 26 percent compared to March 2011. In the same month last year, H&M had reported sales in comparable units were down 5 percent, and sales in local currencies were up 2 percent.

 

The March 2012 jump in comparable sales was the strongest since March 2007, when they increased 17 percent.

 

Nils Vinge, head of investor relations at H&M, cautioned that sales developments should be viewed over a season rather than a single month.

 

“The weather is especially important when winter goes to spring and when summer goes to autumn. This year, we have had a warm March in most of our markets versus a cold March last year,” he said.
 
“We also saw a positive calendar effect from exchanging a Tuesday and Wednesday to a Friday and Saturday (much stronger trading days). This will reverse and be a negative effect in April, since we then will exchange a Friday and Saturday for the weakest days, Sunday and Monday,” he added.

 

H&M last month published lower-than-expected results for the three months ending Feb. 29, blaming heavy discounting of unsold merchandise and rising purchasing costs.

 

The retailer counted a total of 2,517 stores on March 31, 2012 versus 2,238 units on March 31, 2011.

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