The history of H&M

The history of the fashion empire and one of the world’s most successful clothing chains starts in Smedjegatan in Västerås in 1947.

Erling Persson opened the first Hennes store in 1947 and, as the name reveals (hennes is the Swedish word for hers), it only sold women’s clothes. Just over 20 years later Erling acquired Mauritz Widforss, a men’s outfitters that also sold hunting equipment, and the new name was born: Hennes & Mauritz. The first store grew and moved into the building next door and now has 2 500 sister stores in a total of about fifty countries.

Over the years, H&M, as it is now called, has held onto its legacy and image by, among other things, working with famous singers and fashion designers and providing ”ordinary” people with exotic garments at reasonable prices.

But a good business acumen and an eye for fashion are not the only keys to H&M’s success. The company prides itself on its choice of geographic locations for every new store.

Store manager Bosse Eriksson has worked at the Västerås store for 33 years and he is convinced that H&M has had a huge impact on the city and its inhabitants.

– I think that the inhabitants of Västerås are very proud of the fact that H&M started here and that we have such a great store right in the city centre. A lot of people know that the company was founded here in Västerås, even foreign tourists.

– It is quite surprising how many people come here and ask about our history. Especially Germans as Germany is our largest market and has around 400 stores, says Bosse, who has noticed that Västerås is attracting an increasing number of visitors.

– There are more and more tourists here every summer, which could be due to the fact that the city centre has become much smarter in recent years, especially the pedestrianized areas and Sigmatorget.

H&M over the years: 1947-2012

1947: H&M’s first store opens in Västerås.
1952: Hennes opens in Stockholm.
1964: The first overseas store opens in Norway.
1977: The impulse stores are launched and cosmetics start to be sold.
1980: Hennes & Mauritz acquires the Borås-based mail order company Rowells.
1993: H&M launches an outdoor campaign with Anna Nicole Smith, which is soon criticised for being a ”traffic hazard”.
1998: H&M starts to sell its products over the Internet.
2000: H&M opens its first store outside Europe, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York. Later that same year the company opens its first store in Spain.
2004: Karl Lagerfeld is the first of many super designers to create a collection for H&M.
2006: The queen of pop Madonna works together with H&M. A specially designed tracksuit is created for her Confession Tour.
2007: H&M opens a new chain of stores – COS Collection of Style. That same year, stores are opened in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China, as well as in Greece and Slovakia.
2008: H&M acquires the fashion group Fabric Skandinavien, owner of the fashion chains Weekday and Monki and starts selling several other own brands, including Cheap Monday.
2008: H&M is ranked as Europe’s strongest brand by the Financial Times.
2012: Italian Marni becomes H&M’s next design collaboration and the collection is released in March.