LONDON (Dow Jones)--A late start to spring and the timing of Easter conspired to dent sales progress at Hennes & Mauritz.
The big Swedish retailer said March sales were flat on year, and down a greater-than-expected 8% on a like-for-like basis for stores open longer than a year.
On their own, H&M's numbers aren't overly worrisome. Indeed, they reflect a trend among the trendy: U.S. rival Gap recorded a 13% drop in March same-store sales, with international store sales down 16%.
A warm April could yet pull things back on track for H&M, preventing the need for markdowns on its current fashion line.
A weak April, though, and the Swedish company will look decidedly frumpy, especially after having already turned in a poor sales performance for February and carrying significantly higher stock levels into the second quarter.
If so, then H&M's forecast of no further deterioration in its gross margin will be under threat. And that will only further increase the gap between H&M and its nearest peer, Inditex.