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AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
It’s coming.
THE TIME IS NOW

H&M is finally opening its first store in India

Marc Bain
By Marc Bain

Fashion reporter

September—or thereabouts. That’s when Swedish fast-fashion chain H&M plans to start doing business at its first location in India.

“H&M will open doors to its first Indian flagship store in New Delhi this fall,” the company said in a statement.

Its debut in the country feels long overdue, not least of all because the company originally planned to enter India last year, but also because it’s lagging behind its competitors in capitalising on India’s growing middle class and grabbing part of the country’s $41 billion apparel market.

Spanish fast-fashion outlet Zara set up shop in India back in 2010, pairing with a local partner as required at the time by Indian law. British chain Marks & Spencer has been in India for years and wants to make the country its second-largest market. Even GAP, which can’t seem to find solid footing lately, beat H&M to the punch and opened its first Indian location last month—in the same posh Delhi mall where H&M is set to open.

And it’s not like there isn’t demand for the sort of trendy, cheap clothes H&M sells. The GAP opening drew massive crowds, as did Zara’s in that mall years earlier.

Part of the delay may be due to a general lack of quality locations. India’s infrastructure doesn’t exactly provide many opportunities for the sort of huge, attractive retail spaces that foreign brands are seeking. Uniqlo, for instance, which is eager to expand across India, likes large-format stores, such as its 89,000-square-foot behemoth on Fifth Avenue in New York.

The India store will be the latest addition to H&M’s briskly expanding global presence. It has announced (pdf) plans to open 400 stores this year, topping the 379 stores the company opened in 2014—more than one store every day. It doesn’t intend to slow down, either. “The growth target is to increase the number of stores by 10-15% per year with continued high profitability,” the company said.

A major aim of that growth is to reach into new countries. In May, the first H&M in Peru opened its doors, and the company plans to move into Taiwan, Macau, and South Africa.

But the main goal is to continue taking over in markets where it’s already established, such as China, Europe, and the US. In May, it opened the world’s largest H&M in New York’s Herald Square, a block from one H&M, and literally across the street from another.