H&M could open 500-1,000 stores in the US in the long haul as the Swedish fashion retailer continues to grow its business in its top expansion market, industry analysts told just-style on Wednesday (30 May).

"They are going to open around 30 stores per year to reach 200 in three years," said Mattias Karlkjell, a retail analyst with ABG Sundal Collier in Stockholm.

"In the longer term, they could very well have 1,000 stores."

Karlkjell's forecasts contrast with those of other analysts who have said H&M could have 600 stores in the medium term.

An H&M spokeswoman would not provide precise expansion targets but said H&M hopes to bolster its US retail space 10%-15% annually in the medium term.

"We are very interested in the US. It's our most aggressive expansion market," the spokeswoman said.

H&M currently has roughly 129 shops in the US. Based on the spokesman's comments, the company could roll out 20 stores in its 2008 fiscal year ending 31 July.

Others said the expansion could be more modest. One Stockholm analyst said he expects H&M to operate 540 stores in the US by 2020.

He said H&M will expand with caution, given that it has already faced growing pains in the market.

"They have made mistakes in the US," said the analyst. "They expanded quite heavily in 2000 and they are suffering from signing long-term contracts in unfavourable locations with tough competition."

By Ivan Castano.