H&M nears 100-store UK target as turnover soars

H&M is on course for 100 UK stores by 2005, and is close to generating more turnover in Britain than its domestic Swedish market.

'We are very pleased with the UK market,' said H&M head of investor relations Carl-Henric Enhorning. 'We should have 100 stores by next year.'

For the first quarter, UK sales came to SKR1.2 billion (£86.7 million) compared with SKR1.1 billion (£79.4 million) for the same period last year - a surge of 15 per cent.

H&M plans to open six UK shops in the second quarter, bringing the total to 86.

A further three or four will open in the autumn.

Enhorning said H&M typically opens 10 to 15 stores a year in the UK, but that was likely to speed up on the back of sales momentum.

He also said the UK could become the retailer's second biggest market by turnover, overtaking Sweden, later this year. Germany is H&M's largest market.

In the three months to February 29, the fashion group posted a worldwide first-quarter profit after financial items of SKR1.79 billion (£129.3 million), compared with SKR1.69 billion (£122.1 million) in the same period last year.

Gross margins fell to 53.7 per cent from 54.4 per cent, as sales excluding VAT climbed by 9 per cent to SKR11.76 billion (£849.3 million).

Deutsche Bank analyst Mattias Karlkjell said: 'Cost control was better than we expected. We retain our belief that H&M is facing like-for-like turnaround in 2004.'

- H&M could open a standalone menswear shop in the UK if a German trial succeeds.