H&M Mulling Israel Venture

The Swedish multinational fashion chain H&M has sent a top management team to visit Israel, looking into a possible local future for the low-cost retailer. The five-man team is looking into manufacturing in Israel, local procurement and, more to the point for Israeli shoppers, opening branches here as well.

The visit was initiated by Israel's economic attache in Stockholm, Mordechai Ish-Shalom. The team is meeting with leaders of local textile and fashion companies, including Delta Galil, Gibor, Tefron and Arad Towels, as well as people from the cosmetics company Ahava.

Dafna Sternfeld of Israel's Exports Institute says H&M is primarily interested in low-cost bathing suits and underwear made in Israel, as well as knitwear and "textiles for the home."

H&M has 68,000 employees in more than 1,500 stores in 30 countries. In recent years it has launched low-cost "celebrity" lines designed by the likes of singers Madonna and Kylie Minogue, and fashionista Stella McCartney.

It seems that an H&M foray would receive a warm welcome: A Facebook group called "Open an H&M store in Israel" has 8,800 members and counting. (Of course, it's also true that another group entitled "Do not open an H&M store in Israel" has 24 members.)