MILAN — Cheap and chic fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB will open its first Italian store in Milan this September.

This story first appeared in the March 12, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The 17,222-square-foot unit will be on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a major shopping strip that is already home to a few Benettons and a Zara flagship that opened last year. “We’ve been negotiating leases for quite some time,” said H&M chief financial officer Leif Persson. “It’s a good time to go there.”

H&M, which plans three to five stores in Italy next year, will generate fresh competition for Benetton, a major player in Italy’s moderate clothing market.

Meanwhile, Inditex, which owns Zara, has three stores in Italy and plans about six more this year.

Meanwhile, this Friday, H&M will open its first stores in Virginia and Rhode Island. The 17,000-square-foot Virginia unit will be located at the Dulles Town Center in Dulles, while the 6,000-square-foot Rhode Island unit will be in Providence Place in Providence.

At both stores, the retailer will present the first 100 people to take off their shirts a free H&M T-shirt as well as 20 percent off the purchase of any single item on opening day.

The shirts from the Virginia customers will be laundered and donated to Reston Interfaith Shelter, which offers temporary residence to approximately 500 individuals and families each year and teaches self-sufficiency skills. In Providence, the shirts will be donated to Clothing Collaborative, a program of Dorcas Place Adult and Family Learning Center which seeks to assist low-income adults in realizing their full potential through literacy, employment, advocacy, and community involvement.

H&M operates 51 stores in the U.S., mainly in the Northeast.

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