How H&M Became The World’s 2nd Largest Fashion Retailer

Andrea Lee
Andrea Lee
March 14, 2016
2 min read
How H&M Became The World’s 2nd Largest Fashion Retailer

In this article

Everyone is familiar with the iconic H&M signboard, visible from afar in Times Square, along Champs Elysees, and in every major shopping mall around the world.

H&M has become the world’s go-to place for a quick shopping fix, with affordable and sustainable clothing available to all.

How did H&M achieve such substantial success in recent years?

1. Established itself as the go-to place for cheap, fast fashion

h&m new shopfront

H&M’s business concept is clear, simple and unpretentious -- “fashion and quality at the best price”. H&M produces clothing for men and women and children that is informed by the latest trends in fashion and style.

H&M sells everything you would need -- classic basic pieces, swimwear, elegant clothing for a prom night with accessories and shoes to match, even lingerie and sportswear -- at affordable prices.

Daily shipments of new merchandise are made to H&M’s 3,900 stores in 61 different markets, keeping customers always coming back with more to see.

Word-of-mouth tip: If you want to be talked about, start with a good consistent product, and stick to your bottom line.

2. Conscious, targeted and inclusive advertising

mariah idrissi for h&m close the loop hijab

H&M’s advertising campaigns are produced in their Stockholm headquarters, but the regional marketing teams make a conscious effort to tailor campaigns to what works in these local markets.

Models with different looks, styles, cultural and ethnic backgrounds are regularly featured, to show customers that the brand focuses on all-inclusivity. For example, in their 2015 campaign called “Close the Loop", their main star was Mariah Idrissi, a 23-year-old Londoner, who donned a hijab for the video - the first for H&M.

The video also features plus size models, an amputee and many other diverse individuals. TeenVogue praised the campaign as "showcasing an incredibly diverse group of people, each following their own fashion rules, or not following any rules at all."

Additionally, local headquarters do ample research on what local cultural taboos are, and make sure to avoid them.

Word-of-mouth tip: Research, research, research. Know your local audience and tailor your marketing campaigns to cater to their tastes and preferences and avoid cultural taboos.

3. Environmental focus with H&M Conscious

h&m conscious exclusive

H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson speaks of the campaign’s objective as “ultimately making fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable.”

Sustainability has become the talk-of-the-century, with every individual stakeholder becoming more conscious of the repercussions of their daily actions on the growth of our planet.

With the launch of the H&M Conscious collection, H&M pledged to make choosing sustainable options accessible and affordable to the average consumer.

To generate even more hype over the campaign, H&M engaged influencers with large social media following to write about the Conscious collection on fashion and lifestyle blogs.

Directly targeting the teen to young adult demographic, these influencers are integral in generating hype and WOM for H&M's campaigns.

Word-of-mouth tip: Understand your core customer base, and what are the most effective channels to engage their attention. Social media influencers have been extremely effective in this regard.

4. Collaborations with luxury brands to make luxury fashion affordable

balmain x h&m collaboration

Every year, H&M launches a capsule collection with an internationally recognised designer house. When high-end style meets high-street prices, fashion aficionados go absolutely crazy.

Starting with Karl Lagerfeld x H&M in 2004, designer collaborations have become a mainstay in the fashion empire, with Versace x H&M in 2011, Alexander Wang x H&M in 2014, and the most successful collaboration to date -- Balmain x H&M.

The success of Balmain x H&M rode off the waves of the world’s obsession with the Balmain-clad Kardashian-Jenner clan, the prelaunch Instagram photos of celebrities flaunting their exclusively sent pieces, and the commercial success of Kendall Jenner dancing in the iconic Balmain structured blazer.

How do they keep the attention sustained, though?

Before the launch of each capsule collection, H&M generates hype through celebrity-endorsed campaigns and advertisements, that pop up on everyone’s social media feed.

This keeps all eyes on the campaign, making sure that tons of WOM is generated even before the launch.

Word-of-mouth tip: Designer collaborations have been a big hit in the fashion world. The Adidas x Kanye West Yeezy Boosts will be stranger to none. Designer collaborations ride off the incredible hype of celebrity endorsement, and generally become a commercial success.

Recap: What were the factors that contributed to H&M's success?

  1. Clear goal for their product, and sticking to their bottom line
  2. Making sure their advertising takes into account cultural contexts and is inclusive
  3. Focusing on good causes like sustainability
  4. Unique collaborations to bring luxury to the masses


Read next: How Coachella Grew To Become An $82.4m Hipster Pilgrimage

Andrea Lee
Andrea Lee

Andrea is an undergraduate majoring in international relations and East Asian politics. She enjoys a good run in the city.

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