H&M launches e-commerce site in U.S., but is that good news?

H&M, the Swedish fast-fashion retailer, opened its e-commerce site to the U.S. today, making its women’s wear, as well as men’s, children’s and home wears available online here for the first time. It is the latest step in the world’s second largest retailer’s very public campaign to boost sales – which has included a string of high-end collaborations, a show at Paris Fashion Week and an eco-friendly line.

An e-commerce site has been long-awaited by fashion bloggers and serious fans who have been buzzing about this day for nearly three years.


A logo sits above a store operated by Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) in Bordeaux, France (Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg ).

For long-time customers and fashionable shoppers looking for good deals, the online smorgasbord of cheap, trendy clothing will likely elicit jubilation. The long lines and general insanity at brick and mortar H&M’s in big markets have long been one of the store’s pitfalls — as can be witnessed at the Georgetown location on any given Saturday.

So the thought of being able to purchase that $5.95 burn-out print top with a few mouse clicks without the onset of severe claustrophobia is tempting. But is it worth it?

H&M Fulton Street Store Opening And Block Party on July 3, 2013 in Brooklyn City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for H&M) H&M Fulton Street Store Opening And Block Party on July 3, 2013 in Brooklyn City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for H&M)

H&M will be unveiling a few enticing online-only offers to grab shoppers. First, there will be garments available online only, as well as additional sizes. Pieces from the upcoming Paris Fashion Week show will be available for pre-order online starting August 22. And the Home section, which is not available anywhere in the U.S., is a pretty good selling point.

The downside — H&M garments are notoriously tricky — sizing can vary, materials can be iffy and quality is generally a guessing game. Ordering a blouse without having seen or touched the fabric in the store can be a different ball game than ordering one from J. Crew or Banana Republic, which have built reputations around consistency.

Perhaps to counteract that uncertanty, H&M has set a flat shipping rate of $5.95 for any purchase. Items can be returned if they are unworn with labels still attached within 30 days and with the original packing slip. The $5.95 extra is relatively cheap, but for a $10 skirt, it may be more cost effective to brave a bought of claustrophobia.

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Ron Charles · August 1, 2013