H&M needs staff to fuel Asian expansion
Written by Diana Danyi
Continued substantial growth is the term that best characterises H&M's global strategy. The establishment of its stores in Hong Kong and Shanghai represents the clothing group's first step into the populous Asian markets.
'We opened our first store in Hong Kong on March 10 and we see it as more than a success,' said Lex Keijser, country manager at H&M. 'Due to the extra number of customers coming to our store we need more staff.'
Apart from the 60 to 70 new employees the company is looking for at its Queen's Road Central outlet, an additional 250 to 350
positions are available at three more stores scheduled to open in autumn. Recruitment for all four stores is in full swing as the company wants to ensure all employees are well trained before the grand openings.
Two to five years of experience in a similar position in the textile industry is necessary for candidates applying for store manager positions, but this is not a requirement for sales staff.
'Most of our candidates are not from the textile industry,' Mr Keijser said.
All sales staff, floor managers, visual merchandisers and office support will receive internal training to ensure they integrate H&M's business concept and values. Store managers can expect to spend up to three months training abroad at another H&M location. Their duties will later involve running the daily organisation of stores with 150 to 170 staff and creating opportunities for growth.
It is important to have an eye for fashion and be an excellent team player. The ideal candidate must like to work with other people and be willing to work hard.
'Our company believes really strongly in people. People have to show that they want to work for a fashion company and they are eager to do something extra,' he said.
Though popular collections are essential to the brand's success, the commitment and efforts of its staff are also important. To complement the efforts of its employees, the company offers several chances for self-development and career building.
Job rotation is common at H&M. Duties in stores may vary between the cash desk, fitting rooms, unpacking, display and follow-up of advertising and campaigns.
'Working in the stores provides important experience and is a way of getting to know the company from its very foundation,' said Mr Keijser.
New stores are being opened globally so key employees can relocate to new markets to pass on their knowledge of H&M's operations and enhance their own skills.
'It is particularly important to transfer knowledge from colleagues in established countries when we move into new countries. If you are good, we use your capacities.'
The group often recruits internally. Colleagues in the stores later form a good recruitment base for positions of responsibility in stores and in other functions at H&M. Therefore emphasis is on skills development.
'All training is carried out in our organisation but the biggest knowledge gain is made through active learning on the job,' he said.
Mr Keijser thinks future employees will have numerous opportunities as the company continues to grow. The company has doubled its staff worldwide since 2001, reaching 60,000 last year. The growth target is to increase the number of stores by 10 to 15 per cent per year and increase sales at existing stores.
And Hong Kong is a great base to launch the brand in Asia because of its key location, knowledge base and purchasing parity.
'Opening new shops is a global strategy. If we start in a country or city we don't want to have only one store,' Mr Keijser said.
Stockholm - the home of the brand - has a population of one million and 30 stores. For Hong Kong, with a population of more than seven million, and the same level of purchasing power as in Europe, there is definitely room for growth.
H&M is recruiting 250 to 350 people for its three new stores in Hong Kong.
Personality and an interest in fashion matters more than a background in the textile industry.
Successful candidates must be willing to work hard and long hours.
The company is expanding globally so there are opportunities for trained employees to relocate to other countries.
Plans to open new outlets in Hong Kong will create more career opportunities.