Hennes & Mauritz has gone back to basics this year, with an emphasis on its trademark black minimalist look - proving that it has learned its lesson after last year's disastrous foray into more fashionable and colourful clothing.

The decision proved costly for the Swedish retailer, with core thirtysomething customers deserting it for more sober stores. The retailer, with stores in 14 countries, saw sales growth falter and profits fall as it was forced to sell off inventories on the cheap.

H&M reacted quickly and focused on what customers wanted, a strategy that saw second quarter results improve impressively with comp sales rising 31 per cent and pre-tax profits up 37 per cent.

But the retailer is aware that it has more lessons to learn particularly as it continues its expansion in the US and Spain.

"High-profile fashion is very similar in all countries, but when we come down to basic garments, we realise we are not selling the same items in Germany as in the US or England," said Karl-Gunnar Fagerlin, H&M's global purchasing manager.

Information on progress in the US, where H&M has 21 stores, is limited. With another 10 to open in the next six months and 20-25 more planned next year there remain concerns over the costs and aggressive pace of expansion.