// H&M net sales fell 27%, or 21% in local currencies, to SEK 40.1bn (£3.37bn)
// Analysts had on average forecast a 30% decline in net sales
// March sales so far up 10% in local currencies thanks to hundreds of stores reopening
H&M has posted a less-than-expected decline in first quarter sales while and hailed big improvements in the first half of March as Covid restrictions were eased in some markets.
The Swedish fashion retail giant said net sales fell 27 per cent year-on-year, or 21 per cent when measured in local currencies, to SEK 40.1 billion (£3.37 billion) in the three-month period ending February 28.
According to Reuters, analysts had on average forecast a 30 per cent decline in net sales for the period.
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Nonetheless, an increase in online sales could not make up for the loss of sales due to the temporary closure of 1800 stores around the world due to the pandemic.
H&M said the number of closed stores decreased to about 900 on March 13 as some countries, including Germany — the retailer’s biggest market — allowed some stores to reopen.
As a result, it said there has been an improvement in sales for so far for the current period – with March sales up 10 per cent in local currencies compared with the same period in 2020 when the pandemic had started forcing restrictions on public life in many countries.
“Sales development was significantly affected by the Covid-19 situation, with extensive restrictions and at most over 1800 stores temporarily closed,” H&M said in a statement.
“Since the beginning of February, a number of markets have gradually allowed stores to reopen and at the end of the quarter around 1300 stores remained temporarily closed.”
H&M released the figures ahead of its full earnings report for the first quarter period, which will be published March 31.
The retailer is expecting for a loss in the quarter after the pandemic slashed 2020 profits by 88 per cent.
H&M operates 5000 stores around the world, under its flagship H&M brand alongside Cos, Monki, Weekday, Cheap Monday, & Other Stories, H&M Home, Arket and Afound.