H&M reported on Friday flat sales for its most recent quarter, lagging expectations as the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer struggled in the face of intense competition from Zara-owner Inditex and others.
H&M shares fell more than 4 percent after the company said June-August local-currency sales, the most closely watched figure, were “flattish” year-on-year, missing the 5 percent growth forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.
By 0800 GMT the stock was on track for its worst day in six months.
H&M is in the mid-market, and analysts say it is being squeezed on both sides — by Zara, which is appealing more to aspirational shoppers, and by fast-fashion retailers Shein and Primark, which are beating it on price.
All eyes are on the ability of H&M, which also owns Arket, Cos, Monki, & Other Stories, and Weekday, to improve its profit margins. The company said efforts to achieve its goal of a 10 percent operating margin in 2024 were “going in the right direction,” and that it prioritised profitability during the quarter.
In a sign of that strategy, H&M has become relatively more expensive this season, RBC analysts found in a survey of UK apparel pricing published at the end of August.
“Whether H&M is able to turn its margin back is most important in the near term,” said Jie Zhang, an analyst at AlphaValue.
The Swedish company’s shares have gained around 50 percent this year as sales rose and a cost-cutting drive announced last year started to bear fruit, but intense competition has taken a toll.
While H&M has struggled to pass cost increases on to shoppers through higher prices, Inditex raised prices early and spent on marketing to elevate its Zara brand, for example, by working with fashion photographer Steven Meisel.
Inditex beat expectations on Wednesday with a 40 percent jump in half-year net profit even as it slowed the pace of price increases.
But in a sign that the heatwave in Europe had dented demand for autumn clothes, Inditex’s sales between Aug. 1 and Sept. 11 fell short of analysts’ expectations and shares in the Spanish company fell slightly.
H&M’s net sales rose 6 percent to 60.9 billion Swedish crowns ($5.45 billion), lagging the 63.5 billion expected by analysts.
Excluding its Russia, Belarus and Ukraine operations, H&M’s sales rose 8 percent measured in Swedish crowns. H&M opened its Russia stores from August to November last year to sell stock before closing them permanently.
H&M has announced it will begin reopening stores in Ukraine in November, after they were closed last year following Russia’s invasion.
By Helen Reid; Editors: Terje Solsvik, Jason Neely and Susan Fenton
H&M Taps Heron Preston as Creative Menswear Advisor
The New York-based designer will create his own seasonal collections for the retailer, launching in 2024. As part of his long-term role, Preston will also consult on the brand’s overall menswear assortment.