H&M opens doors

 

H&MH&M has opened the doors of its first Australian store, and the fast fashion giant has fast plans for the local market, exclusively telling Inside Retail PREMIUM it wants to expand “as quickly as possible”.

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Housed in Melbourne’s iconic GPO building, at 5000sqm the store is one of the biggest in the world for the brand.

Opened on Saturday, the store occupies three levels and offers H&M’s full men’s, women’s, and children’s fashion ranges, as well as its homewares line.

“We do have more stores planned,” Hans Andersson, country manager for H&M Australia, told Inside Retail PREMIUM.

“We had actually been looking into the Australian market for three and a half years and the reason why Melbourne was the first was because it was the first location that was available,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic opening location for a new brand in a new country. We obviously want to expand as quickly as possible, but the most important thing is that we find the right locations. The first eight to 10 stores in a new country are the most important.”

The flagship Melbourne store blends H&M’s contemporary look and fast fashion pieces with the GPO building’s traditional fixtures. Store highlights include a dedicated area for H&M Home, and a carousel in the children’s area.

“I have seen all the flagships around the world and nothing compares with this,” Andersson said of the store’s look.

The store is one of a select few include a homewares offering on debut.

“This is the first time that we’ve opened in a new country and we’ve also been able to include Home [instore].”

At around 150sqm the Home section is divided into room categories including kitchen, dining, and bathroom. It is also the first time H&M has launched an exclusive fashion collection for a new market.

An Australian exclusive fashion collection includes around 40 female pieces and 10 male pieces.

According to Andersson, local prices are relatively on par with European price tags and items instore are part of an international campaign running across all countries, with Australia’s offering to remain similar to that of its international counterparts.

“Fashion is international. At the same time, everywhere, people are looking for the same thing, and we always offer the latest fashion in all countries.”

Andersson said the brand is looking at capital cities including Sydney and Brisbane, but has not yet found suitable locations.

“We started in Sweden back in 1947, and there’s a little more than 9 million people that live there now and we have 177 stores. In The Netherlands, we started in 1989, and there’s 15 million people and we have over 100 stores there plus online.

“In Australia, there’s almost 23 million people, so I think there can be a few more stores, but the number is difficult to telli

He also confirmed that GPO is the only lease that has been signed for H&M in Australia, despite speculation last month that it has locked in several locations including a site at Macquarie Centre in Sydney’s north.

Despite this, a H&M distribution centre opened at Eastern Creek in Sydney late last year.

“We’ve signed one lease for H&M and one lease for COS.”

COS, a secondary fashion brand owned by H&M, will open its first Australian store at Melbourne’s The Strand, later this year.

A local online store for the H&M brand remains a longer term goal, despite earlier reports it would launch a transactional website at the same time as GPO’s opening.

“It won’t be 2014. We hope online will be a reality in Australia within a couple of years.

“We launched online in the US last year and a couple of weeks ago in France. Later this year, it’ll launch in Italy and Spain and at the end of the year we’ll launch online in China, our first Asian market.”

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