Swedish fashion retailer H&M has appointed Helena Helmersson as its first female chief executive officer, as it reported its first annual profit rise since 2015 and strong fourth quarter growth, amidst a change of leadership.
Helmersson was previously head of operations and has also held roles including chief operating officer and head of sustainability over her two decades at the company.
She succeeds the founder’s grandson Karl-Johan Persson, who moves to the role of chairman. Persson replaces his father and outgoing chairman Stefan Persson. The Persson family retains outsize control over the company.
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Profit in the fourth quarter (September through November) was 5.4bn crowns ($569m), up from 4.35bn a year ago.
Annual net sales were 11 per cent higher, as the retailer changed strategy by making investments in logistics, digital technology, new store concepts and independent brands.
However, the outbreak of coronavirus in China has had a negative impact on sales in China this month, H&M said.
Following the announcement, shares in the company increased as much as 10 per cent after it also beat earnings expectations for the fourth quarter.
The company also announced that Jyrki Tervonen, CFO of the H&M group since 2008, will become chief executive officer at Ramsbury Invest, the parent company of the fashion group.
He will take up his new position on July 1 2020 and will be succeeded at H&M by Adam Karlsson who is currently head of controlling at the H&M brand.