Friday, May 22, 2015

H&M's 'Biggest Store Ever' Feels Like a Full-Fledged Department Store

H&M's 'Biggest Store Ever' Feels Like a Full-Fledged Department Store:

H&M opened its largest store ever in Herald Square on Wednesday. Photo: H&M
H&M opened its largest store ever in Herald Square on Wednesday. Photo: H&M
On Wednesday at noon, H&M opened its 13th store in New York City with the headline-generating detail that it's the retailer's largest store in the world. (At the time of writing, John Legend is leading an actual ribbon cutting ceremony at the new flagship, where he will also perform.) It's located in Herald Square across the street from Macy's, a heavily trafficked area that could draw enough people to fill much of the store's 63,000 square feet.

Here are the numbers. The store is 6,000 square feet larger than H&M's second-biggest location, on Fifth Avenue. It has a 35-foot modern glass facade with LCD screen, mirror and terrazzo tile details, as well as an approximately 30-foot high atrium on the second level. There are 40 fitting rooms, nine of them for men, 31 for women. There are four floors, 34 registers, two entrances and two elevators.

I got to tour the imposing structure on Tuesday before it opened and I was struck by not only the size, but also how many types of products H&M makes nowadays, which are fully represented in the store.

From lingerie to kids' clothing to maternity to footwear to home, not only was every imaginable product category present, but each one had a huge designated section. I didn't even know H&M made lingerie, and there it was in a mini shop-in-shop the size of a small lingerie store, where bras were available in a full range of cup sizes plus a full selection of shapewear.

A small portion of the shoe section. Photo: H&M
A small portion of the shoe section. Photo: H&M
The size of this store's home section rivals that of a Nordstrom, and includes everything from napkins to full bedding sets to tablecloths. Sections dedicated to shoes, kids' clothing and even kids' accessories were also shockingly large. There will like be plenty of space dedicated to the retailer's expanding beauty range when it launches in the fall. Collaborations, like the one H&M recently announced with Balmain, will also be sold here, and we hear collaborations in the home space could soon become a reality.

H&M calls this a "full concept" location, meaning that it carries every collection the retailer has; a press release even refers to these sections as "departments," which is fitting as I truly felt like I was in a department store. The location puts H&M paces ahead of all other fast-fashion stores, at least in the U.S., as it sells so much more than just fast fashion.  Zara has home and children's categories, yes, but they're hard to find in the States.

A glimpse at the home section. Photo: H&M
A glimpse at the home section. Photo: H&M
Still, the store doesn't alienate shoppers who just want to pop in to grab a cute dress to wear out that night — trend-driven women's items are in the first section you encounter upon entering the store.

H&M isn't heavily marketing the store's technological features — perhaps because that didn't work out so well last time — but we were impressed to see a that the fitting rooms were outfitted with their own cash registers as well as heat sensors, which allow sales associates to gauge whether a room is occupied.

While I liked the store a lot, I doubt I'll be back much. The best way to shop an H&M store is when it's completely empty, and given this location's touristy midtown location, that will never be the case once it's open.

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