Swedish retail giant H&M is reportedly looking to close as many as seven of its Australian stores in the latest blow to the battered local fashion industry.
According to The Australian, the retailer is looking to shutter up to 15 per cent of its stores while shifting customers towards its newly launched online offering.
H&M, the world's second-biggest fashion chain, first arrived on Australian shores seven years ago – opening its maiden store in Melbourne in 2014 to 15,000 customers – and rapidly expanded across the nation, with stores in every state but the Northern Territory.
Retail industry insiders told the newspaper that of the Swedish retailer's 49 Aussie stores, the Bondi Junction (NSW), Kotara (Newcastle, NSW), Warringah Mall (NSW), Chirnside (Victoria), Townsville (QLD) and Rockhampton (QLD) stores are facing closure.
In Sydney's north, the brand's Chatswood store has already been shuttered.
The Australian reports there is belief internally at H&M that final preparations are being made for the leasing, legal and other documents necessary to begin briefing its 1300 staff on the planned closures.
Last October, H&M announced it would close 250 of its 5000 stores globally, after its profitability took a hit from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Its performance in Australia – one of its best-performing regions – also stumbled, after the company poured tens of millions of dollars into its nationwide expansion. From a profit of A$2.6 million (NZ$2.7m) in 2018, H&M Australia clocked a full-year loss of A$1.19m.
Some of the stores predicted to close have been open since 2017 – with Townsville and Rockhampton the seventh and eighth stores opened in Australia by the brand.
Late last year, H&M also launched its long-awaited online site, stating that globally it would invest more in its digital assets to accelerate the push online.
At the time, H&M Australia country manager Thomas Coellner called it a significant milestone for the retailer's local operations.
"We are very excited to finally launch H&M online in Australia and to be able to offer our fashion collections to customers nationwide anytime, anywhere," he said.
"We now have 40 stores across this country and this significant milestone extends H&M's omni-channel offering."