MADRID (Reuters) - Inditex (ITX.MC), the world’s biggest clothes retailer and owner of Zara, reported a slowdown in sales growth in its third quarter as Europe’s warm autumn kept shoppers away, though it pointed to a brighter end of the year.
Fashion retailers such as Next and John Lewis have already reported a hit from warmer-than-usual weather as shoppers ignored new winter ranges. Inditex’s biggest rival, Sweden’s H&M (HMb.ST), will report fourth-quarter sales on Friday.
Inditex said on Wednesday that sales between August and October rose 6 percent year on year to 6.3 billion euros ($7.4 billion), in line with analysts’ forecasts, while net profit rose 2.7 percent to 975 million euros.
The sales growth was down from 9.2 percent in the previous quarter and 11.6 percent a year ago.
“The top line is showing a big deceleration versus previous quarters,” analysts from Kepler Cheuvreux wrote in a note.
Most of the lower growth is already priced in to the shares, they added. Inditex shares have fallen about 2 percent this year, against a decline of more than 20 percent for H&M.
However, colder weather arrived in November and Inditex said sales at its more than 7,500 stores and online increased 13 percent at constant exchange rates between Nov. 1 and Dec. 11, as shoppers snapped up items such as oversized sweaters and puffer parkas from new collections.
Shares in the company were up 2.8 percent at 1029 GMT.
“A return to more seasonal weather across Europe has allowed the group to step up top line gains considerably,” Jefferies analysts said in a note.
Analysts said the lower sales growth and a strong euro helped to push the company’s gross sales margin for the quarter to 58.4 percent, down 33 basis points from a year earlier.
Inditex’s profits are sensitive to fluctuations in the euro because it makes most of its clothes in the euro zone to respond quickly to fashion trends but generates more than half of its sales in countries outside the currency bloc.
The business model has kept Inditex ahead of rivals such as H&M. By keeping its manufacturing bases close to its distribution center in the northern Spanish region of Galicia, it can shift new designs from catwalk to shop window within weeks.
The Spanish retailer’s other brands include teen label Bershka and underwear chain Oysho.
Inditex Chairman Pablo Isla said on Wednesday that the company would sell several stores purchased in Spain during the 1990s, in keeping with its policy of renting property to expand.
Additional reporting by Paul Day; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Mark Potter and David Goodman