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H&M's Blowout Sales Growth Leaves Questions About Inventory

The Swedish retailer reported its fastest quarterly sales growth in three years, but analysts question how much it cut prices to get rid of excess inventory.
H&M Rue La Fayette flagship store in Paris | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Bloomberg

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Hennes & Mauritz reported its fastest quarterly sales growth in three years, though analysts said the big question is how much the struggling Swedish retailer cut prices on clothes to clear excess inventory.

Revenue rose 12 percent to 56.4 billion kronor ($6.2 billion) in the three months through November, according to a statement Monday. Analysts expected sales of 56.1 billion kronor. The figures exclude value-added tax.

Key Insights

While the gain may make bulls more optimistic that H&M is reducing its record inventory position, investors may react coolly after a recent rebound in the stock. H&M also had a very easy quarterly comparative. It may be hard to raise prices in December after offering such big discounts in November, Richard Chamberlain, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets said.

It won’t be clear until full results are published on January 31 what effect the sales spurt had on earnings. It’s possible a lot of the sales growth wasn’t very profitable: H&M has recently been selling sweaters for as little as $9.99.

Favourable currency shifts supplied half of the growth; excluding foreign-exchange movements, sales grew 6 percent in the quarter. Rival Inditex faces a currency headwind, which crimped revenue in its most recently reported quarter.

Market Reaction

The stock fell as much as 2.9 percent in early trading. H&M had gained 27 percent in the three-month runup before the results as sentiment toward the embattled retailer shifted. The shares have been buoyed by share purchases by Chairman Stefan Persson and Ikea's investment company Interogo Holding.

By Thomas Mulier and Niklas Magnusson; editors: Eric Pfanner, John J. Edwards III and Marthe Fourcade; with assistance from Hanna Hoikkala.

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