Back in time: The history behind H&M

  • News
  • November 7, 2016
  • Will Bowman
Back in time: The history behind H&M

In 1947, the first incarnation of what we know today opened its doors. The store exclusively sold women’s clothing and was aptly named Hennes, meaning ‘hers’ in Swedish.

The fifties were relatively quiet for Hennes, considering what was to come, with another store opening in Stockholm in 1952. However, the pace of expansion picked up when in 1964, the first store outside of Sweden opened in Norway.

Four years after the Norway opening, in 1968, founder Erling Persson bought Mauritz Widforss, a hunting and fishing equipment store. The acquisition marked the beginning of Hennes’ involvement with men’s and children’s clothing, and the company’s name was changed to Hennes & Mauritz.

The name change and product extension were the beginning of a very successful few decades that aren’t showing any signs of letting up. In 1974, the company listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange before opening its first store outside Scandinavia in London.

Towards the end of the decade, in 1977, H&M began selling cosmetics in all stores, a new market for the company. Following one shrewd move with another, during the eighties the company opened a store in Germany and the Netherlands while acquiring the mail order company Rowells.

Always operating at the pointy end of its industry, the company was a relatively early adopter of online shopping, entering the area in 1998. The move followed a further progression through Europe with the opening of its first store in France.

It was during the same era that the company began to advertise in earnest, with newspaper and magazine advertisements being complemented by outdoor advertising featuring famous models.

The 2000s marked the biggest decade yet for the Swedish super-retailer. Its first U.S. store opened on Fifth Avenue in New York, stores opened in Spain, and it began its famous collaborations with famous designers. These included the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Jimmy Choo, Versace, and Alexander Wang.

Not slowing down, in the late 2000s the company entered various Asian markets, opened its first stores in the Middle East via franchise, and launched H&M Home, opening the home items industry up to the company.

Since 2010 growth has, not surprisingly, been close to exponential for the company. It has opened stores in both hemispheres to give it a total of 3,716 locations, honed its online offering to effectively reach all corners of the globe, and boosted the presence of its other brands, COS, Monki, Weekday, and Cheap Monday.

It opened its first store here in Sylvia Park, Auckland, on October 1. 

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 745 August/September 2016

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