H&M chief resigns as retail giant loses ground to rivals

  • Helena Helmersson, 51, joined the Swedish business in 1997
  • In her first year in office, H&M’s profits fell by 88% due to store closures
  • The new CEO is Daniel Erver, who has worked at H&M for 18 years

The chief executive of H&M Group has resigned with immediate effect, as the fashion giant struggles to boost sales in the face of intense competition.

Helena Helmersson, 51, who joined the Swedish company in 1997 before rising through the ranks to become chief executive four years ago, said the role was “very demanding” and later told reporters she did not have the energy to continue.

H&M on Wednesday reported revenue growth of just 1 percent for 2023 on a local currency basis, with sales falling in the fourth quarter when operating profit was lower than expected at 4.33 billion kroner.

The figures bring an end to a turbulent era for Helmerson, which saw its profits fall 88 per cent in its first year, as rival retailers such as Sheen and Zara owner Inditex gradually won market share at the group’s expense.

New boss: H&M CEO Helena Helmersson (left) has resigned as CEO and will be replaced by Danielle Erver (right)

New boss: H&M CEO Helena Helmersson (left) has resigned as CEO and will be replaced by Danielle Erver (right)

Last year, Zara overtook H&M to become Europe’s second-largest clothing seller, behind Nike, which had overtaken the Stockholm-based company the previous year.

H&M was also hit by lower summer sales due to unfavorable weather conditions and the decision to limit price hikes amid high inflationary pressures on households.

Helmerson’s replacement is Daniel Erver, who has worked at H&M for 18 years, most recently as head of the H&M brand.

Erver, 42, was a former managing director and also responsible for merchandising in the company’s US and German operations, as well as business unit director for both men’s and women’s wear.

Karl Johan Persson, Chairman of the H&M Group, said: “(Helmersson) led and led the H&M Group decisively and effectively during a period largely characterized by epidemiological, geopolitical and macroeconomic challenges.

“During this time, we have gradually taken clear steps towards our long-term goals. The H&M Group is in a strong position, with a positive profitability trend and good conditions for further improvements in 2024.

The new appointment comes on the same day that H&M announced its annual results, which showed total net sales grew by 6 percent to 236 billion Swedish krona in the year to November.

Trading was lifted by increased demand for the company’s “portfolio brands”, such as COS, Arket and Weekday, and growth across the Americas and Western Europe despite cost of living pressures and some store closures.

Operating profits also more than doubled to 14.5 billion kroner, which Helmersson attributed to higher gross margins from an optimized supply chain and “a continued normalization of external factors affecting procurement costs.”

In addition, sales have fallen by 4 percent since the beginning of December, partly due to increased costs resulting from lower prices.

After the results were published, H&M shares fell 7.3 percent to 156.02 kroner on Wednesday morning.

(tags for translation) Daily Mail

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