H&M has today reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales as shoppers tighten their belts with energy and food bills soaring and the world's second-biggest fashion retailer struggles to compete with rival Zara.

Third-quarter net sales at the Swedish group were up 3% from a year earlier at 57.5 billion crowns ($5.36 billion).

Analysts polled by Refinitiv had on average forecast a 5% rise for the June-August quarter.

Measured in local currencies, sales were down 4%.

"The third quarter got off to a weak start, in common with the industry in many of the group's major markets," H&M, which does the bulk of its business in Europe, said in a statement.

"Sales improved sequentially during the quarter, with a better start for the autumn collections than last year," it added.

The performance substantially underperformed market leader Inditex, the owner of Zara, which this week posted sales growth in constant currency terms of 16% for its May-July quarter.

The Spanish group's growth pace however slowed to 11% in the August 1 to September 11 period.

Inditex yesterday flagged further price hikes this autumn to offset soaring costs, despite worries demand would wane due to the cost of living crisis.

H&M is due to publish its full third-quarter earnings report on September 29.