NEW YORK — H&M, which arrived in the U.S. 13 years ago, launched e-commerce in America on Thursday.
The Swedish retailer unveiled the launch on Twitter and Facebook. Daniel Kulle, U.S. president of H&M, stressed that the company didn’t “deliberately neglect” the U.S. when it came to online shopping. “We’re taking countries on every year, one by one. We’re a global company and growing on all three continents. In the past three years we have opened approximately 800 stores globally, and 80 of those stores were opened in the U.S. alone. We have e-commerce in nine markets, and the group continues to work on the global rollout of H&M’s online store with the aim of adding more new online countries during 2014. We’re busy doing things around the world,” he said.
H&M’s omnichannel approach includes an “updated, very strong mobile app”; the e-commerce site; brick-and-mortar stores in 32 states, and for the first time in the U.S., catalogue distribution, which will begin in the fall.
Combined, the four channels will reach 300 million people in the U.S., Kulle said, adding, “We have brand awareness, but sometimes we don’t have distribution. We can now educate our customers as to what H&M is all about.”
Kulle declined to discuss sales projections for e-commerce, but said, “For sure, online will be our biggest store. It has huge potential.”
The e-commerce site will bow with a slew of offers and special products. Offers include slim-fit pants for $10 during the launch period; straight-cut cardigan blazers, $10; long-sleeve burnout shirts, $4.95; slim-fit tank dresses, $5, and lace tank tops, $5. Similar savings will be available for men and children.
Internet shoppers on Aug. 22 will get first dibs on the Paris Show collection before it hits stores Sept. 5. H&M’s first runway presentation, Paris Show, was held in February in a Seventies-style apartment constructed on the grounds of the Musée Rodin. “We want to give customers access to buy earlier,” Kulle said. “The U.S. will have the global exclusive.” To coincide with the online launch of Paris Show, H&M will open a pop-up shop in Manhattan in an as-yet-unspecified location.
The Paris Show collection is trendier than H&M’s main line and “almost similar to our [designer] collaborations,” Kulle said. “It’s high fashion and quality at the best price.” The highest-priced item in the collection is a pair of beaded pants for $199. Other styles include a velvet cape with passementerie details and a military coat with beading and decorative buttons. “We’re showcasing our brand and our designers,” Kulle said. “We have 160 designers in-house.”
Designer collections will be sold online with certain stipulations. The retailer has not yet decided how many pieces consumers will be able to buy of the next designer partnership, Isabel Marant for H&M, launching in the fall. There will be a limit on purchases and a shorter window for returns.
Kulle said H&M bought more of the Marant collection in order to cater to more customers. “We can offer it on a multichannel basis. We can move pieces around. Our ambition is to sell out [quickly] online,” he said.
The e-commerce site offers more colors and sizes than stores. Also launching today is the H&M home collection. It will be available in only two domestic stores, the new New Orleans store and the Georgetown unit, which was expanded by 15,000 square feet. The Boston store on Newbury Street is growing by 30,000 square feet. Kulle said the goal is to sell home in stores in major cities and top malls.
Other categories are on the rise. The sports collection is increasing in size, and cosmetics departments are getting bigger. “We’re growing the offer,” Kulle said.
In fact, H&M is growing all around. The company opened 40 stores in the U.S. last year and expects the same number this year. Two new stores will be unveiled in Mexico and five in Canada.
Meanwhile, the retailer continues to expand globally. For example, in March, H&M opened its first store in South America, in Santiago de Chile. In the fall, the retailer will open its first units in Vilnius and Klaipeda, Lithuania. It will unveil units in Tallinn, Estonia and Belgrade, Serbia. Also in the fall, H&M will launch its first Jakarta, Indonesia, store, a franchise with J.S. Gill.
The company’s other brands are also growing. Later this year, COS will open its first stores in Istanbul and Geneva, and Monki unveiled its first units in Osaka, Japan, in June. Cheap Monday will introduce its own e-commerce store in 18 countries in the fall.
In the U.S., H&M plans to open its largest store in the world, a six-level, 57,000-square-foot flagship at 589 Fifth Avenue on the corner of 48th Street. A 42,500-square-foot unit will open in November in Times Square. The stores’ personalities couldn’t be more different. The Fifth Avenue flagship will be elegant and sleek and similar to a high-street store. The Times Square unit, with LED signage and billboards, will have a “full-on party atmosphere,” Kulle said.
H&M Life is the social media aspect of hm.com/us, providing news, trend reports, interviews and videos. A contest, 50 States of Fashion, will tap 50 bloggers — one from each state — who will select winning looks from consumers’ submissions of their favorite look from their first H&M online purchase.