H&M wants an even bigger piece of Manhattan.
This story first appeared in the July 17, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
At a party Tuesday to celebrate the opening of its biggest store in the world, a 57,000-square-foot unit at 589 Fifth Avenue and 48th Street, H&M revealed that it’s not done searching for locations in the city. “More stores and more brands,” said an enthusiastic Daniel Kulle, president of H&M North America, “We’re always going to surprise.”
The new flagship will only hold the title of biggest store until a 63,000-square-foot unit opens in Herald Square later this year. But even with these behemoths, H&M sees more potential.
“There are pockets in New York that we have not captured,” said Kulle. “We have nothing south of SoHo. There are pockets on the Upper West Side and pockets in the boroughs. We’re going to do more in the boroughs and more in Manhattan. We’re going to be very active.”
Kulle said H&M has reached critical mass in the U.S. “You get some scale with over 300 stores,” he said. “We have our supply chain secured.
“Last year we promoted 1,000 people,” Kulle said, explaining that H&M is investing in talent to fuel its growth. “We have brand awareness and that drives traffic and allows us to invest more.”
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H&M’s sister brands are coming to the U.S. this year, as well. COS is opening a store at 129 Spring Street in SoHo and & Other Stories is set to bow at 575 Broadway in SoHo. “We’ll see how we can grow in the U.S. with those two brands in the coming years,” Kulle said.
Asked about the possibility of one of the new brands taking over H&M’s Fifth Avenue and 51st Street store, Kulle said, “We don’t know what we’re going to do. Nothing is decided. We have different brands, COS and & Other Stories, and we’re expanding other offerings. We judge our real estate portfolio carefully to see what can play in different locations.”
H&M is planning to grow COS and & Other stories in Canada, where it operates 67 stores and has six more on the way. The retailer opened three units in Mexico and is adding three more.
Kulle also revealed that H&M’s collaboration with Alexander Wang, launching on Nov. 6, will be a sports-inspired “strong, commercial collection” that will be sold in 40 stores and online.
Guests at the party listened to 18-year-old British phenom Birdy’s brooding sounds. “I’m a huge fan of H&M and I love that it’s been inspired by art,” she said of the flagship where Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog was flashing on an LED screen. The flagship is closely associated with Koons, whose retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art is sponsored by H&M.
Koons, for his part, seemed pleased to see his art on a limited-edition handbag and said he was wearing an H&M suit. “I made beach towels before and I did a bottle for Dom Perignon,” he said, listing his product design credits. Two of his balloon dogs graced the facade of the building. “The original is 10 feet tall. I wanted it to be mythic. To see it even larger is wonderful.”