Even H&M is closing stores as the list of fast-fashion retailers stung by COVID grows

Even the world’s second-largest retailer, fast-fashion giant H&M, is not immune to the coronavirus.

The Stockholm-based clothing company will close 350 stores starting next year, it said Thursday. In a statement, it emphasized a push toward online shopping and a pull away from its once ubiquitous brick-and-mortar locations.

“More and more customers started shopping online during the pandemic, and they are making it clear that they value a convenient and inspiring experience in which stores and online interact and strengthen each other,” said company CEO Helena Helmersson. “We are increasing digital investments, accelerating store consolidation and making the channels further integrated.”

Although H&M is clearly feeling the effects of the global pandemic—which hammered the entire retail sector, forcing the company to shut 80% of its stores temporarily—things could be worse for the Swedish clothier. In addition to next year’s closures, the company plans to open 100 new stores, putting it at a net reduction of 250 stores, which account for just 5% of its current 5,000 stores. And despite a 16% fall in net sales year-over-year June through August, the company reported quarterly profits 10 times higher than expected—led by a 27% rise in online sales.

In September, it said, net sales were down just 5% year-over-year.

Meanwhile H&M’s apparel rival Zara, owned by the world’s largest retailer Inditex, earlier this year said it would shutter as many as 1,200 stores by 2021. And according to public accounting firm BDO, American retailers including Guess, Express, and The Children’s Place have announced plans to close a record 10,226 stores so far this year.

H&M has not yet released a list of locations it will close, telling BBC that it’s “too early for us to give any details on this, the numbers will differ from [national] market to market.”

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