At long last, Swedish fashion chain H&M will be available to its stateside customers for internet shopping. The retailer announced earlier this month that its US online store will open in August.
The launch comes in just a little behind schedule. It had originally been planned for the start of 2012 but was delayed to fall of that year as the Stockholm-based retailer struggled to ensure web and mobile experiences were properly integrated with brick and mortar stores. That obviously didn't come off either, with the chain pointing to issues that include security, logistics and the complexity of the US market for the delays.
If all that time was well spent it could prove to be a worthwhile investment. An Accenture study in April found that retailers offering American customers seamless shopping experiences across all platforms win loyalty and gain a competitive advantage. The flip side is that those experiences are extremely difficult for traditional retailers to provide. There's a big gap between what consumers expect and the retail reality.
Since opening its first American store in 2000 in Manhattan, the US has become H&M's second-biggest market. The retailer collected $1.9 billion in sales last year, coming to 9 percent of the company's total revenue. And yet with nearly 300 stores across the country, there are still 14 states that have no local outlets so can only get H&M's merchandise if they go out of town.
It's for that reason that analysts are projecting significant pent-up demand for the Swedish chain's product. The general feeling is that H&M's merchandise is a perfect fit for the Internet generation. The company's US website already makes up 20 percent of total online traffic, even though there's no way to make purchases, and some expect the company to see 10 percent revenue growth in the US for the second half of the year.
Still, H&M has lost a lot of valuable time in the e-commerce game, falling behind rival Inditex as Europe's biggest apparel seller in 2006.
And then there's the skepticism that the online store will actually open—from self-professed fans of the brand. In a Facebook group dedicated to pestering H&M to let US customers shop online, one commenter greeted news of the August launch with a hefty degree of cynicism: "I'll believe it when I see it."
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