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H&M Group shapes the future of retail with tech

How fashion retail can secure another 74 successful years? One important step is by harnessing the power of tech as an enabler to a sustainable fashion future and recognizing the need for collaboration. H&M Group’s CEO Helena Helmersson, and CTO Alan Boehme — keynote speaker at the Web Summit conference 2021 — explain.

When the world changes — whether through a pandemic or the effects of climate change — H&M Group adapts. Luckily the entrepreneurial spirit is within the DNA of the company, which celebrates its 75th year in 2022. Just ask anyone of the Group’s approximately 153,000 employees around the tagline “entrepreneurial spirit” and they will give you their own clear interpretation — the expression is a well-known ingredient in the company’s strong and value-driven culture.

In the business since 1947

What started 74 years ago as a small store in the Swedish town of Västerås, H&M is one of those fashion brands with the kind of genuine history that many branding marketers can only dream of for storytelling: what started as a family business decades ago, still has family members in the board, and is continuing to grow globally during a transformational period for the fashion and retail industries.

Back in 1947, founder Erling Persson’s (1917–2002), grandfather of Karl-Johan Persson (1975-) the current Chair of the Board of Directors, ambition was to offer fashion at the best price. Today, H&M Group is a global family of brands and businesses with fashion, lifestyle and customers at its heart. The Group runs its business in 53 online markets and has approximately 4,850 stores in 75 markets. In 2020, net sales were SEK 187 billion.  To democratize fashion is still the key business idea, but the tagline has evolved: to offer fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way.

Tech shapes the sustainable future of fashion

In comparison to 1947, a period when photos were printed in black and white, opportunities today are almost overwhelming. Lately, the pandemic has accelerated the already ongoing digital transformation of the industry, rapidly changing customers’ behavior. Helena Helmersson, CEO H&M Group, refers to ‘sustainability, AI and innovations in textile’ as most important when talking about H&M Group and rebuilding the industry of tomorrow.

Figure 1: Helena Helmersson, CEO H&M Group. Courtesy: H&M Group

“Sustainability, AI and innovations in textiles are allowing us to rebuild the industry of tomorrow. This opens to lots of creativity and new opportunities. New technology allows us to engage even more with our customers and be more creative and fun. Who would have imagined a few years back that you would be able to scan yourself to get a pair of jeans with a perfect fit, especially made for you on-demand like the ones I am wearing today? That is now a reality,” says Helmersson.

A human-centered approach to tech

In 2020, Alan Boehme was appointed Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at H&M Group.

“Combining technology advancements will serve as a driver for H&M Group to become an even more customer-centric company where new growth opportunities are enabled. I’m excited about being part of accelerating H&M Group’s digital transformation,” Boehme said then.

H&M Group’s human-centered approach to tech is grounded in the company’s heritage and values. Smart use of technology and data is integrated into everything the company does. H&M Group will continue, as we speak, providing its customers with a frictionless experience and empowering its designers and other employees, all the while using tech to make their operations more efficient, secure and sustainable.

H&M Group’s CTO at Web Summit

Figure 2: Alan Boehme, CTO H&M Group. Courtesy:

Boehme will speak at the Web Summit 2021 conference, in Lisbon. He sees the future as an opportunity to think big. The audience can look forward to hearing about the future of fashion retail as Boehme will share the Group’s ambitions to accelerate digitalization.

“We want to use tech to drive positive social, environmental, and commercial changes, but we can’t do it alone”, he says.

A conference “where the future goes to be born”

The Web Summit has been called “the best technology conference on the planet” by Forbes, “the world’s premier tech conference” by Politico, while New York Times and Atlantic states “[it’s] a grand conclave of the tech industry’s high priests” and “[it’s] where the future goes to be born”. Of course, it’s a made to measure fit for Boehme, who is attending Web Summit for his eight-year.

“This is a pivotal moment in our industry where technology is accelerating transformational change — we want to use it to drive positive social, environmental, and commercial changes, but we cannot do it alone. Our vision for the future of fashion and retail requires collaboration with the most creative and innovative minds in tech, which is why we are so thrilled to be part of Web Summit,” Boehme says.

H&M Group has clear ambitions and bold goals and understand that their entire business must be conducted in a way that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable — tech is the enabler.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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