Despite a subdued outlook for the South African retail sector in 2019, global fashion retailer H&M has firmly underlined its ongoing commitment to the local retail market with the announcement of three new store openings, this along with several local partnerships placing strong emphasis on the brand’s ongoing sustainability work.
The Swedish clothing retailer recently opened its first Port Elizabeth store, at Walmer Park shopping centre on 28 March, which will be followed by its first store opening in Bloemfontein’s Loch Logan Waterfront on 11 April. Further expansion includes an H&M HOME extension to its existing flagship store in Durban’s Gateway Theatre of Shopping whilst, later in the year, the international retail brand will open another store in Johannesburg at Fourways Mall.
With the three new stores trading, H&M’s local workforce will increase from approximately 800 to over 900 employees across 26 South African stores, its distribution centre and offices around the country.
“H&M is dedicated to investing in the local economy through continuous job creation,” says Oldouz Mirzaie‚ H&M Country Manager for South Africa. “In addition to our expansion plans, we’re working on a very exciting designer collaboration with a South African fashion designer and can’t wait to share more information in the next few weeks. We will also soon start testing production in South Africa and have employed a supply chain specialist into our SA organisation to drive this project forward with the support of SACTWU, EDD and the IDC.”
“Each new market H&M enters brings its own set of opportunities and challenges. We’ve learnt that understanding our customers must be done even more actively; listening to what they tell us and addressing their wishes and concerns in ways that are meaningful,” says Mirzaie. “We know that as a global brand, we carry a responsibility to not only be aware of, but to be attuned to racial and cultural sensitivities. We’re confident that we’re putting the right strategies in place to make a real and sustainable difference and to promote inclusivity and diversity within our company and hopefully within the fashion industry.”
Since 2015 H&M has supported the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and will continue to do so in 2019. Further relationships with the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Anti-Racism Network of SA and the SA Human Rights Commission, amongst others, have been formed. The focus is on building partnerships that promote sustainability by leading change together and demonstrating H&M’s commitment to local communities.
“Consumers worldwide are increasingly looking for products and brands that tell a responsible story and serve a more sustainable purpose. At H&M, we welcome this demand and strongly believe that our business concept of offering ‘fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way’ gives us this competitive advantage and our customers the best fashion deal,” concludes Mirzaie.