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H&M CEO quits abruptly after ‘very demanding’ times

<i>Caisa Rasmussen/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Helena Helmersson
Caisa Rasmussen/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images
Helena Helmersson

By Olesya Dmitracova, CNN

London (CNN) — Helena Helmersson stepped down Wednesday as chief executive of H&M, bringing an abrupt end to her four-year tenure and triggering a surprise change in leadership at one of the world’s largest fashion retailers.

“I am very proud of what we together have achieved during the last years when we have navigated through pandemic, and several geopolitical and macroeconomic challenges,” she said in a statement published alongside the Swedish company’s latest financial results.

“However, it has been very demanding at times for me personally and I now feel that it is time to leave the CEO role, which of course has not been an easy decision.”

Helmersson, who is leaving H&M after 26 years at the company, has been replaced as CEO by Daniel Erver. He was most recently head of the H&M brand, which is the largest within the group. Its other brands include & Other Stories and COS.

According to Reuters, Helmersson said at a press conference in Stockholm that she did not have the energy needed to continue as CEO, adding that she had no plan yet for her next career move.

H&M’s operating profit margin fell to 7.2% in the fourth quarter of its financial year — covering the September-to-November period — from 7.8% in the previous quarter.

Sales increased in the 2023 financial year but dropped 4% in the past two months — including the crucial Christmas period — compared with a year prior.

H&M shares plunged after the announcements and were more than 9% lower in midday trade in Stockholm. The stock has declined 14% since the start of 2024.

“For many consumers the year was marked by lower purchasing power because of high inflation and high interest rates,” Helmersson said in the results announcement. “The fourth quarter started with unusually hot weather in several of our important European markets. From mid-October sales recovered as more normal autumn weather returned.”

Apart from tough business conditions, the retailer has also been grappling with the challenge of reworking its supply chains — it said in August that it would phase out its operations in Myanmar — and a marketing misstep.

Earlier this month, it was forced to remove a school uniform advertisement in Australia after social media users complained it sexualized children. “We are deeply sorry for the offense this has caused,” H&M told CNN.

The ad, screenshotted by a number of social media users before it was taken down, featured two elementary schoolgirls dressed in school uniform, with the slogan “Make those heads turn in H&M’s Back to School fashion.”

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