Forget The Internet — H&M Wants To Double Its Number Of Retail Stores

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

With traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers continuing to lose ground to online sales, and longtime mall mainstays like Sears and JCPenney either closing locations or selling off floor space, the trend is definitely toward smaller retail footprints and focusing on the web. But the CEO of one of the world’s largest clothing retailers plans to buck that trend in a big way.

H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson recently spoke to Bloomberg about his intention, not just to grow the company’s retail presence, but to more than double it over the coming years.

“I think we will go to 7,000, 8,000 stores plus and beyond,” Persson predicts. “We’re not stressed to reach a certain size or to be number one but it’s still expansion ahead of us.”

The H&M Group — which includes retail brands like COS, Monki, Weekday, and Cheap Monday, in addition to the namesake store — already has some 3,900 locations worldwide, which is about double the number it had only six years ago.

The company has already announced plans to add 400 stores just this year, with a stated goal of 10-15% growth each year.

That would put H&M on track to reach the 7,000 to 8,000 store goal at some point in five to eight years.

As Bloomberg notes, this focus on continued expansion comes as H&M’s primary competitor — Spain’s Inditex (operator of Zara and numerous other retail stores) — has pulled back on its retail growth, choosing to invest in its online business.

At the same time, Amazon — already a growing force in clothing sales — recently announced the launch of new house-brand apparel lines intended to compete directly with affordable chains like H&M.

Persson says he’s a “huge admirer of Amazon” but contends that retail clothing stores like H&M “bring something different to the fashion world, and I think we can fare well, as we have shown.”

Only time will tell if Persson is right, or if this is hubris and our cities will eventually be littered with vacant former H&M stores converted into parkour courses.