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H&M's Online Troubles: U.S. Shoppers Are Still Waiting

H&M's Online Troubles: U.S. Shoppers Are Still Waiting

Illustration by 731

“Good morning is an understatement! H&M has decided to have online shopping in the U.S. at the turn of the year 2011/2012! Stay tuned for more.” That was a tweet from the company in, yes, January 2011. A year passed, then another. Now the fast-fashion retailer says U.S. customers will be able to shop from its website sometime this summer. Really.

In the Swedish company’s annual report, released Tuesday, and in a press conference last week, executives didn’t get more specific than that. With good reason: The company has announced and pulled back from launch dates at least twice since that 2011 tweet. H&M offers online shopping to customers in eight of its 48 markets around the world: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and the United Kingdom.

The U.S. online retail market is the biggest in the world; research firm Forrester estimates it will reach about $260 billion this year. It’s also complex. Taxes vary by state, shoppers expect free shipping, and returns are common. The longer H&M waits, though, the more demanding customers become. Now most shoppers expect retailers to have smartphone apps available, too. H&M says it will.

H&M is the slowest of the fast-fashion retailers. Its global rivals, including Inditex, which is based in Spain and owns Zara, and Fast Retailing, which started in Japan and owns Uniqlo, have already figured out how to sell online in the U.S.

H&M, which has 269 stores in the U.S., has said at various times over the years that it wants to enter the market smoothly, without any of the problems that shoppers have sometimes encountered on other sites. And that it needs more time to fix issues with security, customer service, logistics, and the assortment of items offered. But how hard can it be?

Berfield is a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York. Follow her on Twitter @susanberfield.

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