By and  on April 17, 2007

COSTA MESA, Calif. — If the almost 800 people lined up outside two Hennes & Mauritz stores that launched at South Coast Plaza shopping center here Thursday are an accurate indicator, the Swedish fast-fashion company has room to grow in Southern California.

H&M's dual debut at South Coast Plaza unveiled a 20,000-square-foot store selling women's, men's and children's apparel and accessories and an 8,000-square-foot unit carrying an edited selection of fashion-forward women's apparel and accessories.

"There were two fantastic spaces," said Lisa Sandberg, U.S. communications director for H&M. "We don't feel this market has been saturated at all….We're looking for more opportunities in the Orange County [region]."

And the retailer proved it on Friday, opening a third Orange County store in the Irvine Spectrum Center. The 15,000-square-foot unit sells women's, men's and junior merchandise. The trifecta brought the H&M store count in Southern California to six. "It's the first time we've opened three stores in two days in the U.S.," noted Sandberg. Roughly 400 people lined up to get into the Irvine store.

Though the company's West Coast flagship is a mere 45 minutes north of Costa Mesa at the Beverly Center shopping center in Los Angeles, Sandberg said she wasn't surprised by the lines. "The people in Orange County really need to have stores in Orange County to shop," she said. "The [high-low] melting pot that's going on in America's closet right now is really happening here. And that's what we've been saying all along — it's OK to mix and match."

Sandberg likened the atmosphere of the smaller unit to a boutique shopping experience. The company has been launching variations on the all-women's concept for years in locations such as New York and Sweden. "It's a store for women who know fashion," she said. "As the market matures, we'll branch away from bigger stores and open more focused stores like this."

Anton Segerstrom, general manager of South Coast Plaza, surveyed the crush of shoppers from inside the larger store. "H&M is one of the hottest brands and that's what our customers expect from us," he said.

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