By  on September 22, 2006

PASADENA, Calif. — Hennes & Mauritz, the Swedish fast-fashion giant, began an invasion of Southern California on Thursday.

A line of hundreds of customers — some spent the previous night on the sidewalk to get a choice spot — waited till noon, when H&M swung open the doors to its 9,000-square-foot unit on Colorado Boulevard in the Old Town section here.

And it's just the beginning. The company will launch a second store in Southern California on Oct. 26 at the Beverly Center mall in West Hollywood. More units will follow at the Hollywood & Highland mall in Hollywood, the Americana at Brand in Glendale and the Westfield Santa Anita Mall in Santa Anita.

"This is a great market for us," said Luca Michelangeli, U.S. marketing director. "The customer here is very trend-savvy ... It seems like a perfect fit."

Among the first customers was Vanessa Alzamora, who had never been to an H&M store, but spent the night outside to secure the number-one spot in line. Alzamora, 20, of suburban Mission Valley outside Los Angeles, and two friends arrived at 6 p.m. Wednesday, blankets in hand. "We couldn't sleep at all," she said. "We just stayed up and talked."

As the line continued to grow through Thursday morning, eventually curling three-fourths of the way around a city block, employees and marketing executives made final preparations inside the densely packed two-level store, which features women's merchandise exclusively.

Prices start at about $10 for tank tops and T-shirts, and the most expensive pieces — mostly winter dress coats — are less than $80. Many of this season's dresses, largely tunic and trapeze silhouettes, sell for $49.90, and sweaters are around $35.

"We have had a lot of very successful openings," Michel­angeli said. "But every time we're surprised at the bigger and longer lines. This is the first time people spent the night."

Sales associates, dressed in white T-shirts emblazoned with "H&M Hollywood," were prepared "with very simple instructions," Michelangeli said. "Help the customer through the shopping experience. That includes helping them find their sizes, getting them to the dressing room and then to the register."H&M fan Monique Plicher, a 22-year-old from Woodland Hills, Calif., showed up at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, only to find herself standing behind about 200 people in line. "I thought I was all slick being here at 9:30, but no." 

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