Fashion retailer H&M sees Q1 profit drop 10 per cent to $380 million in tough economic climate

STOCKHOLM – Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB reported Thursday a 10 per cent fall in its first-quarter net profit, to 2.46 billion kronar ($380 million), mainly due to unfavourable weather conditions and a tough economic climate.

Net sales during the December to February period, the company’s fiscal first quarter, were 28.4 billion kronar, up from 27.8 billion kronar.

The international retail industry was hit by bad weather during parts of the period, particularly in Europe and North America, H&M said, and cautioned that an unusually cold start to the current quarter will delay the start of the spring collection.

The company was also hurt by shifts in foreign exchange markets as the Swedish krona strengthened against other currencies.

Sales in Asia remained strong and the newly launched mobile-adapted H&M shop online launched in January was well received by customers, H&M said.

CEO Karl-Johan Persson said sales in the quarter had been below expectations and cautioned that 2013 would remain “challenging.” He said H&M would open outlets in five new countries — Chile, Estonia, Lithuania, Serbia and Indonesia — bringing the total number of new H&M stores this year to 350, with more expansion plans next year, including launching outlets in Australia. H&M is also planning to start a new sportswear and accessories range at the beginning of 2014.

H&M’s share price was up some 2 per cent at 4.30 kronar in midday trading on the Stockholm Stock Exchange.

Founded in 1947, H&M has more than 2,800 stores in 48 countries. It said it was on target to continue increasing the number of stores annually by 10-15 per cent.

In addition to H&M, the group includes the brands COS, Monki, Weekday and Cheap Monday, & Other Stories as well as H&M Home. It employs more than 100,000 people worldwide.