Berlin Daily Life

Why So Many H&M's In Berlin?

Can't find what you're looking for in this store? Try the other 27 H&M's in Berlin. i

Can't find what you're looking for in this store? Try the other 27 H&M's in Berlin. Sean Gallup/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Can't find what you're looking for in this store? Try the other 27 H&M's in Berlin.

Can't find what you're looking for in this store? Try the other 27 H&M's in Berlin.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

So we're heading into the final days of Christmas shopping and all you procrastinators are finally getting off the couch to go buy something.

Should your gift of choice be an article of clothing from the Swedish retailer H&M, you should have no trouble finding one in Berlin.

There are 28 of them.

Maybe you don't live in the capital? No problem. Germany is home to 376 H&M stores.

No, you did not misread that. It is 376 – the largest number of H&M stores in any country. And the company may open more.

More H&M's? Already there are two within a mile on the Schlosstrasse in Steglitz. On Kurfürstendamm, it seems as if every other store is an H&M.

Germany dominates in a lot of economic sectors – cars, machine tools, insurance – but these sectors have nothing on the dominance of H&M in the German market, especially when compared to the United States.

Berlin has nearly three times the number of H&Ms as New York City, and NYC has five million more people than the German capital.

There are 10 H&M's in New York compared to Berlin's 28. If New York were to have the same H&M concentration as Berlin, it would have to have nearly 70 H&M stores.

It's almost as bad on the national level.

There are nearly 82 million people who live in Germany and about 310 million who live in the United States. But the U.S. has only 236 H&M stores.

If the U.S. had Germany's concentration of H&M's, it would be home to 1,421 of them.

I'm trying to picture the United States with more than 1,400 H&M's. Maybe that's why there aren't more than 1,400 H&M's in the U.S.

But that's the concentration you have in Germany.

OK. I know. The obvious reason is that H&M has been in Germany a lot longer (two decades to be exact) than it has been in the U.S. I lived in Portland, Oregon for a long time and well remember the opening of its first H&M. it was a year ago, and it felt as if we were finally on the fashion map.

But still. The differences are pretty dramatic. So I asked the company about this. I even asked in three places: its press offices in Germany, at the headquarters in Sweden and in New York.

I guess New York was too busy to answer...maybe they are trying to catch up with H&M in Berlin?

But Germany and Sweden produced essentially the same corporate response.

"H&M has been present in the German market since 1980, and we opened our first store in US in 2000," an email sent from HQ said.

"We see potential for new stores in both markets, and during 2012 we will also launch Mail Order and Shop Online for the US market. However, we refrain from doing comparisons between markets or stores, or number of stores, sales for specific stores or talk about our expansion, future plans and strategy. Thus, we are unable to assist you with your request at this time."

I guess that's corporateeze for bug off.

The German office had a bit more information, saying H&M has more than 2,400 stores in 41 markets. It has a 10 to 15 percent growth goal per year and plans to expand in both new and existing markets with a "focus on quality, sustainability and continued high profitability." The biggest factors when opening a new store are the "client base and the optimal location and business climate."

I think I'll do my last minute shopping at Zara's.

On a side note, the idea for this story came from my daughter Pauline. I would never have noticed something like the concentration of H&M's in Berlin, as she did. I am fashion challenged, to say the least. Actually if there were a fashion intensive care, I'd be on life support. But hey – living in Oregon doesn't teach you about fashion. It's a place where the biggest style decision of the day is which color Gore-tex to wear. Thanks Pauline.

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