Claudia Oszwald: “Best fashion for the best price in a sustainable way”
You can now shop for H&M in Tbilisi. The opening event definitely drew overall attention. First, we couldn’t decide whether to laugh or to admire the brand in Georgian alphabet on top of Galleria Tbilisi – the new mall, where H&M is positioned. Then, we couldn’t decide who to call influencers – this was a big deal, because H&M had a VIP opening especially for them. But finally, all of us agree that broadening our choices in fashion is good, as in everything else, by the way. Claudia Oszwald, Regional Director of H&M sat down with Forbes Georgia in an exclusive interview:
We have been looking for H&M in Georgia for a quite long time. Why now?
We have identified that there are great needs for our customers here. So we thought this is the right moment to enter. Georgia was on our wish list so to say.
So have you investigated Georgian market and have you identified your main competitors on this market?
We always have to look what other alternatives are on the market. Competition is something super important for H&M. We create wider and bigger offer for our customers, and a wider choice between different companies. We compete with our great fashion, with our great prices in a sustainable way.
You mentioned ‘great price’. Can you please tell us how the prices of H&M for Georgia compare with international prices on a global market within H&M?
Well, prices of specific articles may differ from country to country depending of taxing, custom fees but H&M has more or less the same prices all over the world.
Now that we are looking at our national currency devaluating, do you think that could affect your pricing policy in Georgia?
We always try to give best price to our customers. This is the most important goal for H&M – value for money. Currencies might fluctuate but the important thing is that this won’t affect our customers negatively. We try to give our customers best fashion with best price in a sustainable way.
Who are your target group of customers?
Our main customer is of course female. This is our core target group. Her age is from 15 up to 50 but we always consider mental age – it’s not what you have in your passport, it’s how you feel. We also offer fashion for kids, for babies, for teens and also, for men. But main customer group is a fashion lover female between 15 and 50.
You mentioned that H&M will be offering choice to Georgian customers. Do you think that could affect competition on the market in the broader sense and trigger prices to go down?
I can’t say that. We focus on H&M and its price policy, but if this is the side or final effect, we only welcome it. We always think what is best for our customers and for them it is of course the best to have wider choice for best price.
When you are looking at Georgian market, is it this market that you want to focus on, or a wider region, say South Caucasus, since Georgia is often viewed as a hub for doing business not only in Georgia, but in the wider region as well?
Expansion is always interesting for H&M. This is how our market is growing. But at this point we are primarily focusing on Georgia and we are super proud to be represented in this country.
What will be H&M’s contribution to the economy? This is always interesting…
We will have a positive influence on economy. We are employing and creating working places. We hired approximately 80 people already. And of course with the future growth in Georgia we will be able to hire more people and support economy. This is direct influence, and indirectly, we can talk of building this shop out of nowhere involving local companies. We can also talk of marketing where local companies were involved.
What are the qualities that you are looking for when hiring?
We look for colleagues fitting into our culture. We have very strong culture and values. And then of course we are looking for motivated people willing to make a career within H&M. I’m super happy to say that we found such good colleagues here in Georgia. We are super proud of our staff here.
What are your impressions of Georgia?
I have been travelling in Georgia for more than a year. I love the country. This is coming from m heart. Tbilisi was the love from the first sight.
Is it easy to do business here?
It is rather okay, I have to say. We have identified Georgia as the country with stabile economic growth. This is one of the reasons we are here now. Also, Georgia has signed the Association Agreement with EU – coming close to Europe, European standards, which will make it even easier to do business here.
So where do you want to be in 5 years time?
Our biggest ambition is to establish the brand H&M in Georgia to be the most loved brand in Georgia. And I hope this will not take 5 years. It will be much sooner.