Affordable global fashion is hot in India, be it in hip Delhi or conservative Chennai: H&M

Love for fast fashion.
Love for fast fashion.
Image: Reuters/Regis Duvignau
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Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), the Swedish fast-fashion retailer, is doing brisk business in India.

A year-and-a-half after it opened its first store in India, the retailer, popular for its affordable and chic western wear, is set to open its 15th store here, this time its second one in Bengaluru. For the year ending Nov. 30, 2016, H&M India clocked a turnover (pdf) of $67 million (Rs446.5 crore) across 12 stores. In contrast, H&M’s global rival, Spanish retailer Zara, that entered India in 2010, posted $126 million (Rs842.5 crore) in sales for the year ending March 31, 2016.

Janne Einola, country manager, H&M India, spoke to Quartz on what H&M is doing right in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Edited excerpts:

After one-and-half years in India, what has surprised you the most about this market?

The biggest surprise was Chennai. Many people said Chennai is a very traditional city and you will not be so successful there offering western clothes. (But) we are extremely happy, especially with the ladies category. It has only underlined the message that there is a need for western clothing in this market.

What are you doing right? Is it the pricing or the demand in the market?

No, it isn’t just pricing. I think it is our business concept that is working. We give fashion and quality at the right price. In general, we offer our customers everything—kids, adults, mom’s clothing. It is a diverse collection where everyone can find their own style.

How have you managed pricing?

Our prices have more or less been the same as they were when we launched. The only thing we have done is reduce prices in certain categories such as trousers.

India is seen as many countries in one. Have you had to change your offering depending on cities?

Not really. Fashion is global, in the sense that it is similar all over. The question is, is it a traditional (wear) market or western? Like Chennai has shown…we don’t feel there is a risk in going to more traditional areas with our western clothing.

Are your collections in India at par with the global ones?

Yes, it is exactly the same. For example, we launched the Studio Collection in our store in Delhi today. It was showcased at the Paris Fashion Week yesterday, and it is now in 200 stores across the world.

Brands like Zara and GAP have reportedly reduced prices. How does it affect you?

It is good that Indians can now have good, affordable clothes not just from us but even our competition. That doesn’t change our approach as our prices are still below their price points. So, we are under no pressure.

You have more concepts and brands globally, such as beauty and home. Will we see those in India?

We will focus on expanding our brick and mortar presence. We have no plans for expanding online right now, because while online is growing here we want to observe it.