STOCKHOLM Swedish budget fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (HMb.ST) said on Monday its sales rose 11 percent in February, below a median forecast of 14 percent in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Net quarterly sales in H&M's fiscal first quarter, excluding sales tax, totalled 32.1 billion Swedish crowns ($5.03 billion), in line with a forecast of 32.2 billion and compared with a year-earlier 28.4 billion.
Clothing sales in Sweden, measured in comparable units and in current prices, fell by 1.6 percent in February from the same month a year ago, the Swedish Trade Federation's Stilindex have shown.
An unusually cold and snowy winter in the United States disrupted economic activity at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year, weighing on the retail sector.
The Swedish retailer has almost tripled store numbers over the past decade to 3,192 outlets in 53 countries, but most of its sales still come in Europe, where it was harder hit by the economic downturn than bigger rival Inditex (ITX.MC).
Emerging markets, whose currencies have seen great volatility in recent months, also account for a bigger slice of sales at Inditex, the Spanish owner of the Zara retail chain, than they do at H&M.
Retail sales are expected to accelerate in the spring as warmer temperatures and improving household finances in the United States unleash pent-up demand.
Recent data showed U.S. retail sales rebounding in February, rising 0.3 percent in the month, following two straight months of declines.
A European recovery is also underway and should help support demand in H&M's main markets.
(Reporting by Mia Shanley and Simon Johnson, editing by Louise Heavens)