System gremlins lead to sales drop at H&M
Shares rally, however, as Swedish headquarters say no further discounting seen
Stockholm — Shares in H&M rose more than 10% on Thursday after the fashion retailer reassured investors it would not need to cut costs further to shift unsold clothing despite a bigger than expected fall in quarterly profit.
The Swedish company felt the effects of teething problems with a new logistics system designed to help improve its supply chain that cost it 400 million kronor ($45m) more.
However, the market reacted positively after H&M said that it did not expect increased discounting in the current quarter thanks to the “quality and balance” of its inventories.
Its shares traded 10.6% higher by 9.55am GMT, having lost nearly two-thirds of their value from record highs in 2015.
Many in the market have bet on the shares falling, meaning any positive news tends to prompt a strong reaction.
In September, the first month of H&M’s fourth quarter, the underlying sales trend was positive, CEO Karl-Johan Persson said on a call with analysts.
The logistics problems would affect costs and sales in the fourth quarter but to a lesser extent, Persson said.
H&M has seen profits shrink and inventories pile up over the past couple of years as its core budget chain has lost sales to low-price rivals such as Primark and online competitors such as ASOS and Zalando.
H&M has invested heavily in logistics and digitalisation and is reviewing its mix of stores and brands and is also working on a new H&M store concept.
However, June-August pretax profit for the second-biggest clothing retailer after Zara owner Inditex shrank 20% from a year ago to 4.01 billion kronor ($454m) against a Reuters poll forecast for a 16% drop.
British online rival Boohoo this week reported forecast-beating profit growth for the first half of the year and raised its sales guidance.
Britain’s Next raised its profit guidance after better-than-expected trading in the late northern summer.
H&M is rolling out a new logistics system to make its supply chain faster and more efficient and better integrate its more than 4,700 brick-and-mortar stores with its website.
Problems with the new system in the US, France, Italy and Belgium led to extra costs and a sales drop of 8% in those markets. However, overall sales for its other 66 markets increased by 8% in local currencies during the quarter.
Analysts at Credit Suisse said that meant comparable sales in those markets may well have been higher for the first time in three years.
Markdowns increased by 0.7 percentage points, and inventories 15% to 38.7 billion kronor or 19% of sales in the period, the third quarter of the company’s financial year.
H&M said its online sales soared 32% in the third quarter.
RBC analyst Richard Chamberlain saw the earnings as a mixed bag.
“We still see the risk to consensus estimates as on the downside, however H&M is working its way through some of its issues and has given more reassuring guidance on markdowns for Q4, expected at this stage to be flat [year on year],” said Chamberlain, who has a “neutral” rating on the stock.