After years of aggressive expansion of its store portfolio, 2020 will see the fast-fashion retailer increase its net number of stores by the lowest levels in several decades. Just 25 extra stores will exist by the end of the year, with 200 openings, largely in new markets, counteracted by 175 closures in more saturated territories such as Europe.
Instead the brand will invest in making their current footprint more useful to a consumer base that increasingly shops online. The strategy? Transform H&M stores into an effective touchpoint for customers who nonetheless prefer to browse and buy digitally.
‘We think the role of the stores will change,’ CEO Karl-Johan Persson told the Financial Times. ‘How can we use those stores even better as logistical hubs for deliveries, for pick-ups, for returns?’
H&M currently allows online orders to be collected in-store in only 14 countries, while online returns can be made in store in 16 countries, something that will expand drastically under the new directive. The move might also help H&M facilitate an expansion into the fashion rental space, something it started localized experiments with last Autumn. As we wrote about in Frame 131, while it’s an industry that has grown up online, issues around sizing and inspiration mean fashion rental might actually need the high street to survive.
Meanwhile, standalone concepts like Posti Box show that continuing convenience issues around online order fulfilment and the growth in returns mean that new physical typologies are emerging to act as a more efficient interface between online customers and eCommerce brands.