If haste makes waste, then H&M clearly needs to slow its roll.
The Swedish fast-fashion chain has amassed a staggering $4.3 billion in unsold clothing—up from 7 percent the year before. In an industry where profits are hitched to turnover rates, this volume of surplus doesn’t bode well for H&M’s bottom line. Neither does it improve the burden of a planet already contending with some 26 billion pounds of clothing and textiles entering landfills every year, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association.
H&M’s saving grace might be the one thing savvier rivals such as Zara have already wielded to great effect: data analytics. The retailer is reportedly using sophisticated algorithms to scrutinize store receipts, returns and loyalty-card histories in a bid to gain insight into what their customers want and, more important, don’t want at each of its 4,288 locations worldwide.