By  on February 14, 2008

LONDON — Hennes & Mauritz will open on Regent Street today, the first of five major U.K. flagship launches planned for this year.

The Regent Street mecca spans three floors, 32,400 square feet, and sells all the H&M collections, including the brand's rapidly expanding footwear lines.

"It's a great marketplace for our customers. It's one of London's most historic shopping destinations with ongoing exciting developments," Magnus Olsson, H&M's U.K. and Ireland country manager, told WWD this week, adding that H&M would keep its store open in Oxford Circus, less than 400 yards away.

"With the size and the location, we want to create an experience, a shopping destination for the whole family," he added.

The flagship is located in the central chunk of the former Dickens & Jones department store, and features the historical building's dramatic main entrance, with bronze awnings.

Olsson declined to give sales projections for the store, but it clearly needs to keep the cash tills humming. According to real estate sources, the annual rent is more than 2 million pounds, or $3.9 million at current exchange, a year.

Olsson said the brand had taken care to incorporate the building's historical features into the store's interior, such as the bronze window facade and columns inside the store. Special characteristics also include an illuminated light wall in the atrium, visible from the sidewalk, which spans the full height of the store. The wall will feature mannequins wearing the latest H&M looks.

In addition to the clothing collections, Olsson said accessories, particularly footwear, were hot sellers in the British market, and are a category on which H&M wants to build.

After several years of stasis, Regent Street is once again emerging as a hot retail hub. In November, A|X Armani Exchange opened on the street, and the same Dickens & Jones building soon will be home to a new Banana Republic store, due to open next month.

H&M's flagship rollout will include stores in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Bristol, England, and two other major cities in the next six months, in addition to a new youth-led unique concept store in London's Camden neighborhood, which launches in the spring. Olsson said the Camden store will bear the H&M name, but will have a younger feeling. He declined to provide further details.

Currently, H&M has 128 stores in Great Britain and seven in Northern Ireland.

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