Thursday, September 24, 2009

H&M Sales Drop Worsens in August Because of Inventory Shortage

By Sarah Shannon

Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Hennes & Mauritz AB, Europe’s second-biggest clothing retailer, said a sales decline worsened in August because of a shortage of discounted inventory.

Revenue at stores open at least a year fell 11 percent last month, the fourth consecutive drop and worse than July’s 3 percent decrease, Stockholm-based H&M said today. The retailer also reported a 4 percent gain in third-quarter net income to 3.46 billion kronor ($504 million), below the 3.5 billion kronor average estimate of 11 analysts compiled by Bloomberg.

H&M said sales in Spain, the U.S. and France were “weak” in the third quarter because it had too little inventory to keep pace with discounting by competitors. Same-store sales declined 6 percent, though gross margins widened by 0.8 percentage points, led by internal currency hedging policies.

“The stock is down as people are looking at the markdowns and the sales deterioration,” Chris Walker, an analyst at Nomura, said by phone. “The gross margin is a positive surprise from their hedging policy, so we’re not too concerned.”

H&M fell 12 kronor, or 2.9 percent, to 396.50 kronor at 11:10 a.m. in Stockholm trading. The shares have risen 30 percent this year, compared with the 27 percent gain of rival Inditex SA.

H&M said it plans to increase store numbers by 240 this year, raising the target from 225. Planned openings include 18 Monki and Weekday stores and nine higher-priced COS outlets. The retailer will start selling fashions online in the U.K. from fall of 2010, it also said today.

‘Demonstrating Confidence’

“This is clearly demonstrating business confidence and we expect will be positively received by the market,” Alessandra Coppola, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research in London, said by e-mail. She has a “sell” recommendation.

Third-quarter revenue was 23.5 billion kronor excluding value-added taxes, the company said, an increase of 13 percent from a year earlier, or 3 percent excluding currency swings.

“H&M results were weaker versus our expectations,” Simon Irwin, an analyst at Liberum Capital said in a report. “We believe H&M needs sustainable upgrades from same-store sales or further progress on costs to justify higher prices,” of the stock, he wrote. Irwin has a “neutral” recommendation.


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