Fast-fashion retailer H&M is permanently shuttering even more stores this year. It announced in its six-month report that it intends to increase the pace of closures and reduce the number of openings in 2020. Around 170 outposts are expected to shut down — 40 more than it had originally planned — and about 130 openings are anticipated.

In a statement, its CEO Helena Helmersson said, “As we have reopened our stores, sales have begun to recover at a faster rate than expected. To meet the rapid changes in customer behavior caused by COVID-19, we are accelerating our digital development, optimizing the store portfolio and further integrating the channels.”

H&M swung to a steep loss in the second quarter: For the three months ended May 31, the Swedish company reported a pretax loss of $696 million and a 50% decline in sales to $3.07 billion. In mid-April, roughly 80% of its brick-and-mortar fleet was temporarily shut down as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis. In early April, the company warned that it was expecting to post a quarterly loss for the first time in decades in the second three-month period of its fiscal year. It ramped up its focus on digital sales channels; the retailer’s online sales increased by 32% in local currencies.

“During the pandemic, it became clear how important it is that the digital and physical channels interact to meet customers’ needs,” Helmersson stressed.

In the month of June, H&M reported a 25% decrease in sales, compared with the same period last year. Currently, about 350 stores — representing 7% of its total global locations — remain closed.

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