Appreciating H&M’s value for the frugal fashionista

12 Jul

Rating 7/10 for the shop, 0/10 for service

Good for wardrobe staples and trendy, eventually outmoded fast fashions; corporate responsibility

Bad for long-lasting investment pieces; being paid attention to

  • Visited Regent Street flagship storeSaturday, 5:00 p.m.
  • Number of Stores 2,200
  • What they sell fashions for women, men, teens and children; homewear
  • Website
  • Who’s in charge Stefan Persson
H&M is one of the most viral international fast-fashion companies with 2,200-plus shops in over 40 countries with over 87,000 employees, but for some is just that — a virus. For others who are financially strapped, the retailer is a fashion-forward, frugal stepping stone onward to bigger and better things. H&M, which stands for Hennes & Mauritz, was established in 1947 by Erling Persson in Västerás, Sweden. It’s all in the family too, Persson family members still have positions on the board. Today about 100 in-house designers, buyers and pattern makers design for the entire fashionable family on a budget: women’s, men’s, teen’s and children’s. Dabbling in cosmetics, accessories and footwear too, the company boasts two things only: fashion and quality. Compared with other fast-fashion retailers like Forever 21 and Papaya in the U.S., and Primark in the U.K., this holds true, especially with their strategic designer lines by the likes of Midas-touch Karl Largerfeld, Jimmy Choo and Lanvin. For autumn 2011, Donatella Versace will be designing a collection packed full of leather, busy prints and vibrant color at H&M prices. The store has a rapid turn-around on clothing with the latest fashions being shipped in daily (not sure how sustainable this is for the earth’s landfills and our already bulging wardrobes). H&M does not own any of its own factories and instead buys from 700 outside suppliers throughout Asia and Europe. And despite the economic downturn, H&M survives having made 126,966 million in Swedish krona in 2010 with sales increasing 12 percent from May 2010 to May of this year. And to top it off, H&M has got it right in the corporate responsibility department with plans in place for their economic, social and environmental footprints. Their plan is to make the retailer 100 percent sustainable eventually. They have a good start; noticeable with the hanging green tags, many garments have been made with organic and recycled materials or cellulosic Tencel.

                                                                                                                             The windows They leave something to be desired with the goldilocks wig-wearing mannequins and cheap carpet, but at least shoppers will know what they are getting as prices of what are worn in the windows are listed on tacky tags and price lists.

 Shopability Most advantageously, womenswear is on the ground floor with accessories and cosmetics; men, denim and more ladies are on the first floor, while the -1 floor contains ladies sized 18-30, maternity, lingerie and childrenswear sized 0-14. The clothing is further broken down by color palette, “summer must-haves,” sale racks, basics and by collection, providing a clearly- labeled roadmap for the shopper (since they will not be receiving any employee guidance). The fitting rooms are quite large and minimal with drawn curtains.

Service? While the positive is that the staff is a diverse representation, the H&M shopping experience is entirely self-guided. Do not expect to be asked if you need anything or to be greeted with a friendly smile at the till. No, they do their thing, you do yours, and you’ll get along fine.

Online Its native Sweden, and Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and the U.K. are the only countries to have access to H&M on the web. The site is surprisingly fresh and offers more customer service than the actual store.

Do not expect to be asked if you need anything or to be greeted with a friendly smile at the till. No, they do their thing, you do yours, and you’ll get along fine.

Verdict Fast fashion gets a bad rap, but H&M is improving that image with its eco-friendly textiles, Fair Labor Association membership and earthy lines like the “Conscious Collection.” Now if only it could pay attention to its customers and treat them not as its bargain prices suggest.

Credit: The writing style of this article was adapted from Mary Portas’ “Shop!” columns in London’s Telegraph newspaper


One Response to “Appreciating H&M’s value for the frugal fashionista”

  1. Marissa Hoffman July 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    You’re a true fashion critic!

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