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What H&M and Nike Can Tell Us About Fashion’s State of Play

Results from two of fashion’s biggest companies will offer clues about China’s recovery, sweeping changes in the fast fashion landscape and more. That, plus what else to watch for in the coming week.
Nike's performance in China will be closely watched amid uncertainty about the state of the country's recovery.
Nike's performance in China will be closely watched amid uncertainty about the state of the country's recovery.

This week, the biggest (Nike) and fourth-biggest (H&M) fashion companies by revenue report financial results. Here’s what we hope to learn:

The Economy

So far this year, the two big surprises around the economy have been the surprisingly resilient US consumer and the sometimes anaemic post-lockdown recovery in China. Look for H&M to offer some clues about the former, and Nike the latter. Fast fashion can get squeezed when consumers rein in spending, whether it’s due to inflation or a cooling economy. That hasn’t happened – a recession always seems to be just around the corner but never arrives. With evidence mounting that central banks’ interest rate hikes are having their intended effect, sneakers and $25 wrap dresses may be where the pullback finally starts to show up.

In China, with H&M recovering from the 2021 boycott (it recently closed a Beijing flagship), it’s Nike that’s best positioned to give a read on that market. The brand remains wildly popular in China, but sales are still tracking below 2019 levels, and behind where the brand expected to be six months into the post-lockdown era, the investment bank Bernstein noted earlier this month. That’s partly down to an uneven economic rebound, but also to stiff competition from domestic brands.

New Competition

Both H&M and Nike are adjusting to increased competition. For H&M, it’s Shein, Temu and other online brands. Meanwhile, Inditex’s Zara has found success with its “premium” approach to fast fashion — it managed to raise prices without losing too many customers. With Shein attacking from below, and Zara from above can H&M find a comfortable space in the middle?

Nike’s competition is more traditional: new brands, whether Chinese sportswear giants Li Ning and Anta, or fast-growing rivals like Hoka and On. The latter are still small (though at $1 billion+ in annual sales each, not that small). Adidas is also due for a rebound. The competition is likely a motivating factor behind Nike’s move back into wholesale.

Futureproofing Fashion

Looking ahead, Nike has made some big swings in the metaverse, recently launching its own world within Fortnite using Epic Games’ Unreal engine, and held its first NFT sale on .Swoosh, its web3 platform. Less clear is what sort of return Nike is expecting from its investment in the virtual world, and when.

Meanwhile, H&M is working out the next iteration of its sustainability strategy, which is meant to halve emissions while doubling sales by the end of the decade. The waste and emissions generated by fast fashion have made the category’s biggest players targets of regulators and politicians. H&M last year pulled its “Conscious” label, which had drawn greenwashing accusations. New European Commission regulations make it harder for fashion companies of all stripes to depict their merchandise as environmentally friendly. The Swedish retailer’s biggest success on this front has been in resale; earlier this year, it said Sellpy, a secondhand marketplace in which it owns an 80 percent stake, had generated SEK 1 billion ($93 million) in annual sales. Its own resale platform is the largest operated by any single brand, with 27,000 listings, according to ThredUp. This sounds impressive, except ThredUp has that many listings just for women’s turtlenecks.

What Else to Watch for This Week

Sunday

Paris men’s fashion week: Lagos Space Programme, Ludovic de Saint Serrin

Monday

Jacquemus shows at Versailles

Marc Jacobs shows in New York

L’Occitaine reports results

Tuesday

Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen

Thursday

H&M Group reports first-half results

Nike reports quarterly results

Friday

Eurozone reports June inflation data

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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