Feb 16, 2009
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H&M Jan same-store sales fall less than expected

Feb 16, 2009

* H&M same-store sales fall 1 pct versus f'cast 2.7 pct fall

* Total sales rise 9 percent versus forecast 8.3 percent

(Adds analyst comment, background)

STOCKHOLM, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB (HMb.ST) posted a smaller-than-expected 1 percent year-on-year fall in January sales at established stores.

H&M collection spring-summer 2009 - Photo : Peter Gehrke

The mean forecast in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts had been for sales to fall 2.7 percent with predictions ranging from a fall of 4 percent to a fall of 1 percent from a year earlier.

H&M only gives round numbers for sales and does not give currency figures. Total sales for the month were up 9 percent from a year ago versus a forecast of a 8.3 percent rise, the group said on Monday.

"It came in better than expected, but if the total is up 8 or 9 percent is not that important," analyst Anders Wiklund at brokerage Evli said. "They still face a tough challenge in February when the comparison figures are tough."

The low-price profile of H&M and its Spanish rival Inditex (ITX.MC), which owns the Zara chain, is seen leaving them better able to weather the fall in consumer spending than many, more up-market retailers, but sales at both companies are still seen dented by the downturn.

Last month, H&M posted a bigger-than-expected rise in the fourth quarter, but its December same-store sales were well below expectations, falling 7 percent year-on-year.

H&M, Sweden's biggest company by market capitalisation, is the world's third-biggest clothing retailer after Gap Inc (GPS.N) and Inditex, which jostle for the top spot.

The fashion retailer earlier this month said Karl-Johan Persson, the son of the company's main owner and chairman and currently a senior executive within the group, would take over as new chief executive at mid-year. (Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Eva Odefalk; Editing by David Holmes)

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