H&M to open more stores on strong 2009 profits

Swedish discount fashion retailer H&M saw its profits soar past expectations for the last quarter in 2009, causing its share price to rally in Thursday morning trading in Stockholm.

H&M to open more stores on strong 2009 profits

H&M said on Thursday that its net profits rose by a better-than-expected 21 percent to 6.15 billion kronor ($841 million) in the fourth quarter.

Analysts had forecast a fourth-quarter net profit of 5.14 billion kronor.

H&M shares jumped on the news, climbing up 7.6 percent to 433 kronor a share in Thursday morning trading on the Stockholm stock exchange.

H&M’s fourth quarter results capped off a strong year for the purveyor of affordable fashion, which also announce on Thursday it would open 240 new stores this year in Europe, Asia and the United States after net profits rose in 2009.

Group profit after tax rose by 7.0 percent to 16.38 billion kronor ($2.25 billion) for the year, compared to 15.3 billion kronor in 2008, H&M said in a statement.

H&M said most of the new stores will be in the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Italy.

But it will also open its first store in Seoul in the spring and a second one in the autumn. The company said it would also enter the Israeli market with stores in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.

The clothing group, the third biggest in the world after Gap and Spain’s Inditex, which owns Zara, opened 250 new stores in the previous fiscal year between December 2008 and November 2009.

“H&M’s growth target is to increase the number of stores with 10-15 percent per year with continued high profitability and at the same time increase sales in comparable units,” the group said in its financial statement.

“H&M remains positive towards the future expansion and the company’s business opportunities,” it said.

The company, which employs 53,500 people, said sales excluding value-added tax amounted to 101.4 billion kronor last year, an increase of 15 percent compared to 2008. In local currencies, sales rose by four percent.

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The unmanned supermarkets rescuing Sweden’s rural areas

One after another, grocery stores are shutting down in rural Sweden, leaving villagers to travel miles to buy food. But a new type of shop has sprung up in their wake: unmanned supermarkets in mobile containers.

The unmanned supermarkets rescuing Sweden's rural areas
Store manager Domenica Gerlach enters the Lifvs unmanned supermarket store in Veckholm, 80km outside Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand /AFP

In Veckholm, a village of a few hundred people 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Stockholm, the last grocery store closed more than a decade ago. Then, a year-and-a-half ago, even the little convenience store at the only petrol station locked its doors.

Villagers were left with no choice but to travel a half-hour by car to the closest supermarket.

But in July 2020, an automated, unmanned grocery store came to town. In a container dropped in the middle of a field, open 24 hours a day, the 20-square-metre (215-square-foot) supermarket sells hundreds of items — and there’s no cashier in sight.

“Since a while back, there has been nothing in this area and I think most of us living here have really missed that,” said Giulia Ray, a beekeeper in

“It’s so convenient to have this in the area,” she told AFP, doing her own shopping and restocking the shop’s shelves with her honey at the same time.

Shoppers unlock the supermarket’s door with an app on their smartphone. “We come here three times a week and buy stuff we need,” Lucas Edman, a technician working in the region for a few weeks, told AFP. “It’s a little bit more expensive but it’s fine. It’s a price I can pay to not go to another store.”

He scanned his pizzas and soda on the app on his phone, which is linked to his bank account and a national identification system — an added anti-theft security, according to the store. And it’s all done under the watchful eye of a single security camera.

Keeping costs down

In Sweden, the number of grocery stores — everything from superstores to small convenience stores — has dropped from 7,169 in 1996 to 5,180 in 2020, according to official statistics.

While the number of superstores has almost tripled in 24 years, many rural shops have closed down, often due, like elsewhere in Europe, to a lack of

Daniel Lundh, who co-founded the Lifvs, has opened almost 30 unmanned stores in rural Sweden and in urban areas with no shops in the past two years.

“To be able to keep low prices for the customer, we have to be able to control our operation costs. So that means controlling the rent — that’s why
the stores are quite small — but also controlling the staffing cost,” Lundh said.

He plans to open his first unstaffed supermarkets outside Sweden early next year.

Domenica Gerlach, who manages the Veckholm store, only comes by once a week to receive deliveries. She also manages three other shops, all of them mobile containers.

Peter Book, the mayor of Enkoping, the municipality to which Veckholm belongs, has only good things to say about the three container stores that
have opened in his patch. And he’d like to see more.

“It makes it easier to take a step to move there if you know you have this facility,” he said.

Meeting place and ‘salvation’

In Sweden, one of the most digitalised countries in the world, Lifvs, like its Swedish rivals AutoMat and 24Food which have also popped up in rural
areas, benefits from a very wired population.

In 2019, 92 percent of Swedes had a smartphone. Ironically, the unmanned shops — plopped down in the middle of nowhere — also play a role as a “meeting place” for locals.

“You come here, you get some gas and you go inside and get something, and maybe someone else is here and you can have a chat,” Ray said.
Mayor Book echoed the notion, saying the stores make it possible to connect society”.

The pandemic has also proven the stores’ usefulness, since no contact with other people inside the shop is necessary.

Because of Covid-19, only one person at a time is allowed inside the Veckholm store.

“My mother lives nearby as well and … this has been a shop she could actually enter during all this time. She hasn’t been (able to go) anywhere,”
Ray said of her 75-year-old mother. “This has been a salvation for her.”