H&M looking to keep pace with retail's 'fast digital development'

H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson has this week highlighted the importance of always being able to meet customers' shopping demands and expectations "in the fast digitalising development that is taking place in the retail market".

The fast fashion retail boss said his company is growing sales and profit but maintains a focus on "building an even stronger H&M for the future" through long-term investments within areas such as online and IT.

His comments, which were made as H&M reported a 15% sales increase in local currencies and a 35% jump in profit after financial items to SEK 4.7 billion for the first quarter of the year, reflect the challenges the wider retail industry is facing as they grapple with the need to update legacy systems while keeping a keen eye on the bottom line.

Retail IT leaders at Go Outdoors, Lloydspharmacy and Pizza Express were among those debating such issues at this month's RBTE in London.

H&M's Persson explained: "We have made a very good start to 2015 – in terms of both sales and profits.

"Our attractive customer offering and strong expansion both through stores and online, as well as our work on continuous improvement, are among the reasons for increased market share gains and good profits."

Taiwan represents H&M's newest territory following a store opening last month, and the company will be entering the Peru market this spring. There will also be two new stores opening in Macau in 2015.

Like Zara owner Inditex, H&M was relatively late to launch online operations in 2010 – but as is the case with its Spain-based competitor, there are plans in place to roll out multiple new transactional sites across different geographical regions throughout the year.

This spring will see H&M launch online in Portugal, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Belgium, while the autumn will see H&M eCommerce operations start in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, the group is looking to broaden its other brands, which comprise COS, & Other Stories, Monki, Weekday and Cheap Monday. In addition, H&M Beauty will be unveiled later in the year.

"The year has got off to a very good start and we have great faith in our offering," said Persson.

"Although the strong US dollar will affect our sourcing costs going forward, we will make sure that we always have the best customer offering in each individual market."