H&M reports strong start to the year but braces for tough times ahead

H&M reports strong start to the year but braces for tough times ahead
An H&M store in Stockholm on April 2nd. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Swedish clothing giant H&M expects a rough few months ahead as the coronavirus crisis continues, despite a strong start to the year.

The clothing company's net profit from December 2019 to February jumped to 1.9 billion kronor ($190 million), from 803 million kronor in the same period a year earlier.

Sales meanwhile gained 7.7 percent to 54 billion kronor, H&M said in a statement.

That said, “with each day that we are having to keep stores closed, the situation is becoming increasingly demanding,” the company noted.

“In the second half of the quarter the group's sales were muted by the rapid outbreak of coronavirus, particularly in China where sales decreased by 84 percent in February.”

H&M has now closed around three-quarters of its stores worldwide.

“The second quarter will naturally be very negatively impacted by the corona situation and will therefore be loss-making,” the group warned.

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Shares in the retailer nonetheless jumped by 4.7 percent to 120.55 kronor on the Stockholm stock exchange, which was 0.3 percent lower overall.

H&M said it has begun to reduce workers' hours in markets hit by the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, noting that it would “affect tens of thousands of employees in all parts of the business”.

A precise number could not be determined at this point however.

Meanwhile, “senior executives have taken a temporary 20 percent pay cut,” the company said.

Sweden has not declared a national lockdown to deal with the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has infected around 5,500 people with almost 300 fatalities as of April 2nd.


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