H&M’s local-currency sales rise for third straight quarter

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s H&M, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, posted on Friday local-currency sales growth for its fiscal first quarter that matched analysts’ forecasts, while net sales were slightly higher than expected.

Local-currency sales including VAT in the December-February period rose 4 percent from a year earlier, in line with the mean forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

That was the third straight quarter with rising local-currency sales.

H&M, whose main rival is market leader Inditex, said in a statement net sales excluding VAT were up 10 percent to 51.0 billion crowns ($5.49 billion) versus expectations for an 8.0 percent rise to 49.9 billion.

H&M, which is due to publish its full first-quarter earnings report on March 29, did not comment on the figures.

H&M has seen profits shrink and inventories bank up in recent years due to slowing footfall at its core brand’s stores in the face of a shift online and mounting competition, as well as difficulties in reacting fast enough to demand swings.

H&M is investing heavily in logistics, digital technology and store concepts, and is reviewing its mix of stores and brands, but analysts have not been convinced the company is back on track.

Inditex, the owner of Zara, has outperformed rivals for years but investors have started to fret about slowing sales growth at the group. It reported this week sales growth of 7 percent for February and the first week of March, the start of its fiscal first quarter.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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