H&M (HM-B.ST) sales edged towards normality at the beginning of 2021 as key markets began to reopen following coronavirus lockdowns.
In the first quarter 2021 — including the period 1 December 2020 to 28 February 2021 — H&M's net sales decreased by 21% in local currencies compared with 1 December 2019 to 29 February 2020. Converted to SEK the group’s net sales amounted to 40.1bn crowns ($4.72bn, £3.4bn).
Analysts at Refinitiv SmartEstimate had forecast a 30% decline in sales during that period.
The company's shares rose nearly 1.8% in early trade in Stockholm, as investors parsed the encouraging news.
The company said that sales development was significantly affected by COVID-19, with extensive restrictions and at most over 1,800 stores temporarily closed.
Since the beginning of February, a number of markets have gradually allowed stores to reopen and at the end of the quarter around 1,300 stores remained temporarily closed. Online sales have continued to develop very well, it noted.
Since Germany, H&M's largest market, and other countries have begun allowing certain stores to reopen, the number of temporarily closed stores in the group amounted to around 900 on 13 March.
Sales in the period 1–13 March this year increased by 10% in local currencies compared with the same period in 2020.
The report is positive news for the fashion retailer, which had warned on its full-year results in January. At the time it said profits dropped 88.2% to £179m in the year up until 30 November 2020, and gross profit fell 23.6% to £8.15bn.
Full results for the quarter will be published at the end of March alongside a call with company executives.