H&M Sales Climb Above Pre-pandemic Levels

PARIS — H&M Group said sales pushed past pre-pandemic levels in recent weeks, but business continues to be affected by crisis-related disruptions.

“As more people are vaccinated, a number of markets have gradually allowed stores to reopen and the H&M group’s strong recovery continues,” the Swedish fast-fashion retailer said in a statement.

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In the second quarter ending May 31, H&M posted a 75 percent jump in sales compared to the same time last year, when a wave of store closures swept across its vast retail network.

In the June 1 to 13 period, sales climbed 35 percent in local currencies, a 2 percent rise when compared to 2019.

While the quarterly sales figure fell slightly short of analyst expectations, progress marked at the outset of the third quarter is ahead of consensus forecasts, analysts at Berenberg said in a research note to clients, predicting forecasts to remain broadly unchanged.

H&M flagged ongoing pandemic-related restrictions to store operations, with stores in Germany and France mostly closed throughout the period. There were signs of improvement over the quarter, however, with the number of closed stores declining from over a thousand at the outset of the period down to 140.

The group, which operates Cos, Monki, & Other Stories, Arket and Weekday in addition to H&M, has been cutting costs — shedding jobs in Spain, for example — and renegotiating leases for its retail network since the pandemic struck. Before COVID-19, it had embarked on an overhaul of operations to improve digital services and spruce up its offer. Signs of improvement had begun to emerge as the crisis hit.

Executives at the group have said they would continuously evaluate the fleet of physical stores, even as they are seeing an interest from customers in returning to shop in person when possible. In recent years, the group has stressed integrating digital shopping avenues with stores as a key priority.

Forecasts are for a modest pace of recovery for the fast-fashion industry.

Last week, Zara owner Inditex reported improved business in recent weeks, with a 5 percent sales rise in local currencies over the May 1 to June 6 period.


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