What Can Independent Retailers learn from Fast Fashion Retailers? Part 1: H&M

Forever 21, H&M and Zara have a lot to teach independent retailers, not in terms of ethics, but in terms of product mix and merchandising strategies. Although customers that shop at fast-fashion retailers are not in the same target market of that of high-fashion boutiques or independent stores, nor are they direct competitors, but they do give insight into what's working in the fashion world.

H&M started in 1947, and has since opened in 53 markets and has been on target to increases store openings by 10 - 15% annually. With A list celebrities in their advertisements, and high-profile designer collaborations, it's no surprise that the brand appeals to status driven consumers around the world and get instant consumer adoption in Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East. With over $100 billions in sales annually, and over 116,000 employees globally in over 3,132 stores, it shows that H&M is a brand to learn from in terms of scaleability, efficiency and product expansion. Albeit ahead of the curve in brick-and-motor retail channels, the company has been slow to adopt online sales channels, and only recently opened online shopping for consumers in the USA and China.

A growing presence in China, and opening it's first store in Chile, the brand has growth potential in dozens of emerging markets.  They also successfully segment their markets, offering a different product mix for geographic locations, segmenting many Middle East and Latin countries together, and offering different products in each city. In my travels I remember being excited to see what to H&M had to offer in Moscow, Paris and New York, because the selection and merchandising was unique to each location. 

Already H&M has released products in the trendiest colours, including Pantone's color of the year, marsala, and it's triad, mustard yellow. With trendy european products like long sweaters, patterns and high-waisted skirts. 

H&M is promoting similar products In Lebanon and Chile. Highlighting light weight and loose-fitting tops, with the less risky basic fashion pieces in classic florals in blue's and dark colours. 

Not only does H&M give great insight into what are the trends independent retailers should pay attention to in their buying seasons, but they also give retailers the opportunity to learn from their retail visual merchandising strategies. 

In Times Square New York, H&M has launched it's twelfth store, focused on tech to help drive sales. WGSN reports that it is the first store to let customers pay for items directly in the dressing rooms. Customers are also able to interact with the technology in the social media lounge, or try on an outfit and strutting down a runway that will be showcased on the multiple LED screens inside and outside of the NYC store.



H&M is also trying out pop-up shops in the Netherlands and in London, going vintage in Hong Kong and using more traditional up-scale merchandising in their flagship store in Rome. 



What can we learn from H&M? Yellow, marsala and blue are key colours for 2015 with form fitting dresses, patterned tops and high wasted skirts with a feminine and sporty look are popular items. Independent shops should start investing in technology, encouraging their customers to share their experiences while in-store.  Embracing retail technology such as LED screens, interactive displays and mobile purchasing are just a few trends retailers should take note of.  

What are your favourite pieces and take aways from H&M? Will you take notice next time you go for those cheap basics or trendy products? Share it with me


With light & love,