FASHION giant H&M has reported a surge in annual profits after opening more than one new store a day in the past year.
The Swedish group – second only to Zara-owner rival Inditex for global estate – plans to step up its expansion by adding 400 shops, having opened 379 last year in key markets such as China and the United States.
The firm, which employs some 132,000 staff across 3,511 stores in 55 markets, yesterday posted a 17 per cent rise in net profits to 19.98 billion Swedish krona (£1.6bn) in the year to the end of November as it broadens its ranges and launched new online services.
H&M missed quarterly earnings forecasts, however, following investments in new ranges and websites.
The group introduced an H&M Sport range last year and opened online operations in four of its largest markets – China, France, Italy and Spain.
In the UK, sales jumped 16 per cent in sterling terms at its 253 stores, helped by the net addition of eight shops during the period. The business, which created 16,000 jobs last year, said it planned to open nine more online stores over the coming 12 months, including Poland, Portugal and Switzerland.
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It also said it will launch a new make-up and haircare range, called H&M Beauty. This range, which replaces its own-brand cosmetics line, will launch in around 900 stores and 40 markets this year.
Chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said: “2014 has been a very good year for H&M. Well-received collections for all our brands and continued strong expansion, both in stores and online, have helped increase our market share and have further strengthened our position in the market.”
The group – which is also known by its full name, Hennes & Mauritz – added that the current financial year had got off to a solid start with strong sales in December and January, but it warned that the strong dollar would affect its sourcing costs.
Investors in the Stockholm-headquartered firm stand to pocket a dividend of SEK9.75 per share for the year, up from SEK9.50.
Persson added: “We have another exciting year ahead of us, with new opportunities and challenges: 2015 has got off to a good start, with strong sales in both December and January.
“Although the increasingly expensive dollar will affect our sourcing costs, we will make sure that we always have the best customer offering in each individual market in terms of fashion, quality, price and sustainability, which form the basis of our business idea.”
Spanish rival Inditex operates more than 6,300 stores worldwide.