May 1, 2014 12:00 am JST

Fast-fashion emporium H&M proves its commitment to fresh selections

MARI KOBAYASHI, Contributing writer

TOKYO -- Swedish fast-fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz is known for pushing the limits. Founded in 1947, it now operates 3,200 stores in 54 countries.

     What sets the company apart is its habit of making sure there are new items in its shops every day. That commitment to staying fresh has helped H&M to push its sales steadily higher since it opened its first outlet in Japan, in 2008. Today it has 42 stores in Japan -- as of the end of February -- including nine in Tokyo.

     H&M's entry into the country was perfectly timed. The global financial meltdown which occurred that fall pushed up demand for reasonably priced, stylish clothing here.

Asia ho!

"We are making rapid progress in the Chinese market, and last year we took our first steps forward in Indonesia," H&M Japan President Christine Edman said, regarding the company's ambitions in Asia. "Next, we are planning to open a store in India. But at the moment we are working with our businesses in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

     "If you look at our sales in Japan per square meter, we have a very high number, which shows how many fashion conscious-consumers there are in Japan. It is a very important market to seize, not only in Asia, but also globally."

     Each country is unique, making it difficult for H&M to apply lessons learned in Japan elsewhere in Asia. "With a global company like us, it is important to set a strategic plan that fits the local market," Edman said. "The marketing strategy differs a lot between countries, and each of the strategies operate differently. First of all, we focus on each country individually, but now I'd like to see if there are any common features between Asian countries."