H&M targets 300 more new stores

H&MFashion chain H&M has vowed to step up its expansion by targeting more than 300 new stores this year.

The pledge came even though higher costs and investment in a new brand resulted in a slight dip in its fourth quarter profits to 5.29 billion kronor (£524.2 million).

Stockholm-based H&M, which recently unveiled & Other Stories as a new fascia for the business, is planning the net addition of 325 stores this year, with the highest rate of expansion in China and the United States.

This compares with the opening of 339 stores and closure of 35 during the last financial year to November 30, giving a net addition of 304. It had originally planned to open 275 outlets.

Chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said H&M "stands strong" in a challenging clothing market which in many countries was tougher in 2012 than in 2011.

He said an 11% increase in sales in local currencies in the last financial year - up by 1% on a same-store basis - proved that customers "appreciate our collections". Group profits for the year rose 7% to 16.87 billion kronor (£1.67 billion).

Mr Persson said long-term investments in areas such as online shopping and the launch of & Other Stories, which includes a store on London's Regent Street, weighed on fourth quarter results.

The chain currently has more than 200 of its 2,800 stores in the UK and employs in excess of 104,000 people. It will open stores in Chile, Estonia, Lithuania, Serbia and Indonesia for the first time this year.

Mr Persson added: "We are looking forward to an exciting 2013 full of opportunities.

"We have the greatest respect for the macro-economic climate and how it may affect the consumption in many of our markets, but we have a strong belief in our offering and are convinced that H&M will continue to maintain its strong position."

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