We shopped at Old Navy and H&M to see which was a better store for cheap basics, and there was a clear winner

Old Navy's displays were pretty messy, and there were sale signs everywhere.

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Old Navy’s displays were pretty messy, and there were sale signs everywhere.
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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

  • Old Navy and H&M are both known for carrying inexpensive basics.
  • Old Navy has become a secret weapon for Gap.
  • But H&M is struggling, seeing operating profit drop a whopping 62% in the first quarter of 2018. In June, it reported flat sales growth for the second straight quarter.
  • During recent visits, we found that both stores seemed to have similar issues, from varying quality to unfashionable clothes, but one store had a clear advantage over the other.

Old Navy and H&M have become go-to stores for inexpensive basics like t-shirts and sundresses.

Old Navy has become a secret weapon for Gap Inc., seeing sales growth of 3% in its most recent fiscal quarter. In late 2017, Gap announced it would be shifting its focus away from its namesake brand and Banana Republic in favor of the Old Navy and Athleta brands.

H&M, a competitor of Old Navy, has had its fair share of struggles lately. In the first quarter of 2018, operating profit at H&M decreased 62%. In June, it reported flat sales growth for the second straight quarter. Business Insider’s Mary Hanbury reported that analysts believe H&M has a brand issue because it’s not the cheapest store, and its clothes are not the best quality nor the most fashionable.

When we visited both Old Navy and H&M, we found this statement to hold true for both stores – while both had a lot of great deals, they both still had a few overpriced outliers. The quality varied from product to product, and the styles were hit or miss.

However, we found that one store was a much nicer environment to shop in and had a bigger selection of everything from clothes to accessories. See what it was like shopping at each:


First I went to H&M in New York City’s Financial District.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The fluorescent lights and huge windows created a bright and airy atmosphere to shop in. Sundresses, blazers, and t-shirts were displayed in the front of the store.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The surrounding displays had similar basics for $5.99 each.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

This was one of the nicest H&M stores I’ve visited. Almost everything was spotlessly clean and nicely displayed, and most products cost less than $50.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Some products were insanely cheap, like these $6 tops. That being said, the quality varied from one product to another. Even though some of the products were very high-quality, others felt like they were ready to fall apart.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Sale racks were scattered around the store, with items ranging from $7 to $25 or more. Though this sale sign read $7, there were only a few items on the sales rack at that price point.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even though the store was in better shape than many other H&M locations, it was still pretty disorganized. Parts of the store seemed to be organized by color, but the actual products were pretty random.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Jeans, hoodies, and floral dresses were next to each other.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It would be hard to shop for a specific product, like jeans, considering they were spread out all over the store and hidden between products like t-shirts and sweatshirts.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Although there were pairs of jeans spread out across the two floors, there was also a designated denim section in the back of the top floor. The prices were generally below $20.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

A huge part of the store was dedicated to accessories, with purses, hats, jewelry, and other small products on display in the areas surrounding the register.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The jewelry was simple and inexpensive.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Also in the accessories section were swimsuits, most of which were between $4-10.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

I found that the styles were pretty hit or miss, but the store was generally very trendy.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was a designated men’s section on the second level …

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… but a lot of the clothing on display was wrinkled or stretched out.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The prices were about the same as the women’s clothing, and it was just as disorganized.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The store, overall, had a lot of trendy clothes at low prices, but the quality varied, and it was confusing to navigate. Even though it was maze-like, it was a bright and generally upbeat place to shop.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The second store I visited was Old Navy in the Flatiron District.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

In the doorway was a big red “clearance” sign advertising up to 75% off.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The marquee hanging in the entryway advertised free shipping on products if you can’t find the size you need in-store. Similar advertisements were posted around the store. Denim was stacked up at the front and had its own designated section. I noticed right away how much darker the store was than H&M.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Massive sale signs were all over the place. The styles in the front of the store were okay, but definitely not as trendy as H&M. Plus, a lot of the clothes on display were wrinkled and messy.

Old Navy's displays were pretty messy, and there were sale signs everywhere.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The prices in the store were similar to H&M, with most products costing under $50.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Most of the clothes that Old Navy sold were simple sundresses, t-shirts, and jeans.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There wasn’t a ton of a variety in the styles, so it got repetitive going through the store.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It also sold athletic gear, but the styles were hit or miss.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even though the store didn’t have anything that was really trendy or unique, it had a lot of inexpensive basics that were pretty high-quality. Like at H&M, the quality varied.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Old Navy had an entire wall of $2 flop flops for the summer …

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… but didn’t have nearly as many accessories as H&M. There were a few shelves of inexpensive jewelry …

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… a handful of scarves and leggings …

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and an e.l.f makeup display. While everything was inexpensive, there just wasn’t a lot to choose from.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Upstairs there was a children’s shop, and downstairs was the men’s section. The men’s section was a lot bigger and more well-kept than the one at H&M, and a lot of the styles were similar. It was very dark downstairs.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was also a massive clearance section that took up a quarter of the floor, on top of all the sales upstairs.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It wasn’t organized in any way, and it took up about a quarter of the store.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even though the register was on the ground floor, you could check out anywhere in the store, so there weren’t any lines anywhere.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The prices and quality were about the same at H&M and Old Navy, but H&M had a much bigger selection in terms of the styles it offered, and the clothes were generally more trendy.

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Old Navy.
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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

H&M also won in terms of atmosphere, creating a much brighter and more upbeat store.

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H&M.
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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler