H&M closing 250 sites in 2021 as virus, online sap sales

Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M will shed 250 stores worldwide in 2021 on pandemic pressures and a customer base turning increasingly to online shopping.

The store closures are a fraction of the chain’s 5,000 locations as the retailer pivots to digital from brick-and-mortar sites to cater to stay-home shoppers, H&M officials said in a statement Thursday announcing the planned moves.

H&M said customers’ moves to online “have been accelerated by COVID-19,” forcing the chain to speed up its store consolidation plans. Meantime, about 3% of the chain’s stores remain closed while a large number are still under local restrictions on store openings or are on limited opening hours.

“More and more customers started shopping online during the pandemic and they are making it clear that they value a convenient and inspiring experience in which stores and online interact and strengthen each other,” CEO Helena Helmersson said in the statement.

H&M’s Northern California locations include Westfield Galleria at Roseville and its Powell Street site in San Francisco’s Union Square.

H&M didn’t say which stores are on the chopping block.

Retailers have been hammered by the global contagion and the state-ordered stay-home and closure orders invoked to slow the virus’ spread.

But Helmersson and retail analysts say they hold hope that the chain and industry have weathered the worst of the health and economic crisis.

“I am cautiously optimistic about the fourth quarter in terms of the economy and consumer spending, but the outlook is clouded with uncertainty pivoting on COVID-19 infection rates,” National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the federation’s monthly economic review released Thursday. “The recession appears to be behind us and the re-opening of the economy over the past several months has created momentum that should carry through the fourth quarter.”

Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.

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