H&M launches pilot project on sustainable fashion in Hamburg
Swedish fashion retailer H&M is aiming for the very ambitious goal of using only recycled or sustainable materials by 2030, and it is keen to enlist customers in its efforts for a more responsible kind of fashion. To do so, it recently launched a pilot project called ‘Take Care’ in the city of Hamburg, Germany.
The project features in-store seamstresses, the sale of garment-care products and online advice. ‘Take Care’ aims to encourage H&M customers to extend the life of their clothes, giving them the means to take better care of their garments. H&M’s first ‘Take Care’ in-store services were unveiled on 12th April at the fashion retailer’s Hamburg store, on 12 Spitalerstrasse. Over the course of three days, local influencers hosted a series of free workshops, including sessions on embroidery. It was also possible to have clothes from any brand repaired by seamstresses. The H&M app, as well as tablets inside the store, played amusing videos offering tips for wiping off lipstick stains or reattaching buttons.
On the products side, H&M developed a cleaning line with environment-friendly detergents (labelled 'Good Environmental Choice' and produced in Sweden), a stain-removing spray and cleansing wipes for sneakers. Also available are a sewing kit, patches for worn-out clothes and a washing bag designed to prevent the dispersal in the water of the microscopic plastic particles shed by synthetic fibres. The pilot project has been launched only in Hamburg for the time being. “It’s a test, but the objective is to eventually deploy [the project] throughout our chain, tweaking it according to consumer feedback,” said Cecilia Brännsten, the head of sustainable development at H&M, in charge of the fashion retailer’s circular economy projects. “It’s also a way of diversifying our range and encouraging people to come to the store for this specific purpose, whether they wish to personalise a garment or have it repaired,” she added.
H&M chose Germany rather than Sweden to first introduce this project notably because “[Germany] is the group's largest market,” said Yola Kiwoka, in charge of sustainable development at H&M Germany. “Also, because German consumers have a high degree of sustainable development awareness,” she added. H&M is indeed keen to maximise the visibility to its eco-responsible initiatives and has deployed ‘Take Care’ in its largest revenue-generating market worldwide, since Germany ranks ahead of the USA, the UK and France. In 2017, the group’s annual sales in Germany reached SEK36.789 billion (€3.58 billion), equivalent to a 1% downturn (-3% in local currency) compared to 2016. It was the first drop since 2011 for H&M, which operates 463 stores in the country, four more than the previous year. Last October, the first German store for H&M's new label Arket opened in Munich. The Swedish group entered the German market in 1980, and currently employs nearly 20,000 people there. In the first quarter 2018, H&M Germany generated a revenue of SEK8.133 billion (€782.6 million), equivalent to a 3% shortfall (-6% in local currency). H&M is having to adapt to the changes occurring in the retail industry. The group operates 4,743 stores worldwide and in 2017 its profits were down 13%, while annual sales were up 4%, having reached SEK231.77 billion, equivalent to €23.7 billion. Bolstering the e-tail business (the group has been selling on Tmall since the spring, and new e-stores are on the cards) and portfolio diversification through the creation of new brands (Afound, Nyden ) are the drivers the Swedish group has identified to get back on the growth track. H&M posted a rather weak performance in the first quarter 2018, with global sales down 1.5% and net income down 44%.