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H&M opens first store in India

  • November 4, 2019
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New Delhi – The wait for Indian fashionistas is finally over – today
marks the day of Swedish clothing giant H&M opening its first store at
Select Citywalk mall in New Delhi, at 11 am local time. FashionUnited has
summed up the buzz before, during and after the opening.

On Wednesday night at 7 pm sharp, H&M had invited fashionistas, press,
fashion insiders and Bollywood celebrities for a sneak preview of their
first Indian store. There was music, wine, champagne and a red carpet.

The invitees got a chance to shop as well and many took advantage of
getting their hands on coveted H&M merchandise as one of the first.
“Highlight: sizes up to UK 14 in most clothing. Not seen it in other Delhi
highstreet brands,” enthused Surabhi on Twitter.

H&M banks on aggressive pricing strategy

Most of the 25,000 square feet store in Delhi is dedicated to
womenswear, with separate sections for shoes, bags, accessories and
lingerie. Price-conscious consumers can expect the same affordable clothes
at H&M India that the retail giant is known for the world over. Prices
range from 149 rupees (around 2 US dollars) for hair bands to 699 rupees
(around 10 US dollars) for leggings, 799 rupees (12 US dollars) for
t-shirts and shoes, 1,999 rupees (around 30 US dollars) for denims and
2,999 rupees (almost 46 US dollars) for outerwear. This aggressive pricing
strategy should give stiff competition to home-grown and international
players like Zara, Gap and Forever 21 alike.

After a delayed debut due to slower than expected regulatory clearance,
the big question is, where H&M will open its next stores, with H&M fans in
other Indian metros eagerly waiting. “Soon we will open our next store in
Delhi at Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj. In 2016, we plan to open at other
locations such as Bangalore,” confirmed H&M managing director and CEO
Karl-Johan Persson in a recent interview with Hindustan Times.

According to sources close to the company, it is currently zeroing in on
a 30,000 square feet outlet in an upcoming mall in Whitefield.
“Simultaneously, we are finalising locations in Mumbai as well. We are
looking at most likely 30 plus stores in the next five years”, added

Overall, H&M plans to invest 100 million euros (over 780 crore rupees)
in the next five years. Though the company may have waited a long time to
enter the lucrative Indian market, it is now the first international
fashion retailer to enter India alone after the government allowed 100
percent FDI in single-brand retail.

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Considering that H&M is heavily investing in country-specific e-commerce
websites elsewhere, the restrictive Indian retail policy comes as a bit of
a damper. Asked if the company planned to retail online in India, Persson
responded: “Well, Indian policy does not permit us to be on e-commerce
platforms here. Once we are allowed, it is definitely on the cards. We are
expanding globally on this business model.”

Back at the Delhi store, in the morning, there was already a
considerable queue of fashion-conscious women and men, some of whom had
brought their bean bags along to ease the wait.

Closer to opening time, crowds started building up and people queued up
patiently, prompting some to ponder delaying a first visit until the first
enthusiasm has died down.

At 11, the doors are finally open and by noon, the first customers who
made it into the store are still busy browsing, excited about bargains and
new finds. Now it remains to be seen if H&M can catch up to international
competitors like Zara, Gap, Forever 21 and Marks & Spencer that entered the
market much before and local brands like Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle.

“I think H&M will do great, like Zara, especially their winter range is
very affordable; other brands watch out unless they want the same fate as
Esprit. Also growing online will pose marketing challenges,” finds Mumbai-
and Chandigarh-based entrepreneur Vikram Saboo. “I think they have really
appealing clothes and at a Forever 21 price point, will work for all the
crazy women here who have been ordering them online or from abroad,” says
Mumbai-based fashionista Puja Vora.

At least H&M has first-mover advantage over Japanese clothing giant
Uniqlo that aims to become the world’s largest clothing retailer and is
currently working on its India plans. “Uniqlo to be precise is a different
platform than ours. It is not that we wanted to enter India before them. We
were planning an India entry for quite some time. I first came to India in
1999 and since then, we have been acquainting ourselves with the market
dynamics. It is a huge market in terms of size and the fashion that people
have,” explained Persson.

Time will tell if competive pricing and good brand awareness will be enough
for H&M to conquer the Indian market. “Expansion might be difficult for
them considering the large space they look for,” said a source close to H&M
when talking to the Economic Times. However, the Indian apparel market is
large, expected to be worth 60 billion US dollars by 2020, and it is
certainly helping for international brands like H&M that Indians
increasingly embrace western-style clothing.

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