NEW YORK – When H&M on Wednesday unveils its biggest store in the world, a 65,000-square-foot monster in New York’s Herald Square, it will make the flagships of competitors such as Zara’s 43,000-square-foot location at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street look relatively tiny.
The Swedish retailer is building increasingly larger stores and continuing its aggressive march across America with plans to unveil more than 400 stores worldwide by the end of the year.
H&M will continue to operate two existing stores within steps of the new flagship, in keeping with the fast-fashion retailer’s clustering strategy.
“You have to have the flagships and real estate,” said Daniel Kulle, president of H&M North America. “The [existing] stores create an opportunity and flexibility. H&M is our engine. COS and Cheap Monday are also established in the U.S. We have more brands in our retail portfolio.”
Kulle said H&M still has lots of opportunities in Manhattan. “We’re looking all over,” he said. “We don’t exclude anything. We’ll have 13 [with the new flagship] stores in Manhattan and all of them are successful. When you have the footfall of Herald Square,” there’s enough business for all of them.
A new entrance for the flagship on the corner on West 34th Street, where Broadway and Avenue of the Americas converge, will eventually be built at subway level. The entrance will connect the store to the city’s third-busiest station, which serves 40 million passengers annually.
“It will be one of the top stores in the company,” predicted Kulle.
H&M’s 57,000-square-foot unit on Fifth Avenue and 48th Street previously held the title of world’s biggest. “Of course, H&M is making bigger flagships,” Kulle said. “Sixty-five-thousand square feet is large. It can happen that we find something bigger in the U.S.”
With a three-story glass façade and a soaring 35-foot-high atrium, the flagship has the chain’s first dedicated shoe department with 1,000 square feet of space, a separate room for innerwear with gently pleated fabric covering the walls and round tufted poufs dotting the floor.
The flagship is merchandised by trends displayed on floor-to-ceiling mirrored walls such as the riff on Coachella with peasant shirts and dresses in shades of off-white and blush and crocheted and lace shorts near the entrance.
There’s more breadth and depth of everything, from baby and kids apparel to men’s wear to home furnishings.
Prices range from $9.95 for a lace top to $399 for the elevated Conscious Exclusive collection’s short leather jacket. An expanded Modern Classics department features a box pleated fit and flare dress worthy of Audrey Hepburn ($49.95), a fitted jacket ($34.95) and a long gown with a lace yoke, pin-tucks and boning on the bodice and a grosgrain ribbon at the waist ($69.95). Items identified as “premium quality” include a suede dress ($299), suede top ($99) and matching suede skirt ($129) and products made from silk and merino wool.
“We say we’re going to have beauty from head to toe,” Kulle said, referring to the 700-item line launching in the fall.
Marble, slate, leather and other upgraded materials have been woven into the four-level store. The 31 women’s fitting rooms and nine for men have heat-sensored fabric curtains so sales associates know when a customer is inside.
“We have more mannequins, including some on rotating podiums, more displays and more props,” Kulle said.
With plans to unveil 61 new stores in the U.S. this year, H&M last week launched its first national recruitment campaign aimed at hiring the thousands of employees it will need to support the rapid expansion. The retailer last year opened 62 stores Stateside, generating 2,800 new jobs.