Swedish fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz said sales rose 14 percent in November, year-on-year, lower than expected by analysts and the latest in a series of signs that European consumers were getting wary of inflation and debt.
The Swedish retailer, one of the world's biggest fashion chains, said sales for comparable stores -- outlets open at least a year -- were up 1 percent in November.
H&M shares slipped 2.6 percent.
A poll of 10 analysts by Reuters had forecast a rise of 14.9 percent according to the average figure with a median of 15 percent. Like-for-like sales were seen up 2.8 percent.
Retail sales in Europe have been hit in recent months by uncertainties caused by an ongoing credit crunch and by the long-term effects of the subprime mortgage problems in the United States.
"I think consumers are getting increasingly savvy. I think people are hanging back waiting for better sales, for deeper discounts," Tim Denison, director of knowledge management at SPSL, part of global market research firm Synovate, told "Worldwide Exchange."
Growth prospects are looking gloomier and shoppers are more hesitant. Retail sales fell 0.7 percent in October, the latest month for which figures are available, rising 0.2 percent year-on-year.
"Things look more difficult as we look into 2008," Denison said.
Debt was a big factor in consumers' decision to cut back on shopping, he said.