Profits joy for H&M on back of UK growth

Swedish fashion giant H&M more than tripled profits at its UK business last year as it tightened its grip on the British clothing market.

The figures, just released to Companies House, show pre-tax profit soared from£8.9 million to£31.5 million for the year to end-November 2002.

Sales in the period jumped 30 per cent to£288.5 million.

'The development of the UK market has been going very well. We regard the UK as one of the most important markets for the expansion of H&M,' said head of investor relations Carl-Henric Enhorning.

The retailer now has 70 UK shops and plans up to 10 more this year. Enhorning would not comment on UK ambitions beyond this year, but said: 'We have 67 shops in Norway, where there are 6 million people. In the UK there are 65 million.'

One analyst, who asked not to be named, said: 'The UK has improved massively. The profit growth is more related to improvements in product than anything else.'

H&M recently highlighted progress in supply chain management, enabling a fast reaction to fashion trends. One UK fashion retail director said the figures were on the back of 'a sticky patch' in 2001, when H&M struggled to maintain like-for-like sales and some ranges missed their mark.