H&M says retailers need to innovate. Photo: George Frey
Sweden's global fashion chain H&M has revealed that it will open its doors in Melbourne's GPO building on Saturday April 5. The fast fashion giant's exclusive Australia Only collection is set to take on the local competition.
H&M's website for the label went live on Monday, but is currently for browsing only, with no online buying facility.
The exclusive fashion line will be a reflection of the ''Australian lifestyle'' for men and woman and will give its local and overseas retail peers a dose of stiff competition, the retailer says.
Penelope Cruz wears H&M to the Oscars. Photo: Getty
In his first Australian interview H&M country manager Hans Andersson said the group was committed to cementing a position here and would, depending on available space and locations, bring in a range of concept stores.
Australia's first H&M fashion store will open in Melbourne's GPO building in the Bourke Street mall, with the opening understood to be imminent. That store will be followed in the coming 18 months by Sydney stores, rumoured to be at 345 George Street site and possibly at the revamped Macquarie Centre at North Ryde.
H&M is avidly looking at locations in the capital cities, followed by the larger suburban malls.
Concept stores could include homewares and more of the higher-end Collection of Style (COS) brand, which is also opening in The Strand adjoining the GPO store in Melbourne.
H&M is part of part of the overseas invasion of international fashion brands landing in Australia, led by its rival European rival Zara, along with Japan's Uniqlo, which is opening in Melbourne and Sydney this year, as well as Top Shop, GAP and Forever 21, which has its first store in Brisbane.
Other fashion that have had property scouts in the local market include British icon Marks & Spencer, cosmetics label Sephora and fashion group River Island.
The new arrivals are expected to offer strong competition to local fashion outlets like Portmans, Witchery, and Katies.
Local department stores Myer and David Jones, which have been criticised in recent times for having jaded formats, could also suffer from the arrival of fresh competition from overseas.
Mr Andersson did not comment directly on his competitors in the Australian market. But when asked about the future of retail, he said innovation was key. "Retail never stands still and all industry participants must be open to new ideas and layouts," he said.
Mr Andersson also hinted that landlords may need to be more flexible. He said retailers should talk to landlords and local councils to allow longer trading hours.
''There is a great opportunity for retailers to get together and offer special hours. I have just spent years in Seoul, South Korea and there its 24/7 shopping, which can be almost too much. But the knowledge of H&M in Australia is broader than in the US and we want to capitalise on that.''
He said there was an ''opportunity to talk to the landlords'' and calculate the sales made if the stores open longer.
''If that figure is black in the column, then we should all get together,'' he said.
Mr Andersson said the chain, which has 3182 stores in 53 countries, and is opening a further 375 this year, has taken three years to find the appropriate sites in Australia, including the new distribution warehouse at Eastern Creek in Sydney.
The first store opens in India in November to tap into that huge market, then its the Philippines and expansion in South America, where they signed David Beckham in the lead up to the World Cup for soccer.
''The first 5 to 10 stores are the most important when entering a new country, but Australia is the first to open an H&M and COS in the same year,'' Mr Andersson said.
''We have had very strong applicants from Australia and have sent some full time staff to Singapore and the UK for training as staff service is a priority.''
Aside from traditional ''fast'' fashion it is best known for, H&M will also offer its ''Conscious Exclusive'' clothes made from organic and recycled leather and cotton in Australia.
An evening dress from the line was worn by actress Penelope Cruz at the recent Oscars ceremony.
H&M will also introduce an initiative called Garment Collecting. Customers are encouraged to bring in unwanted garments of any brand and in any condition to H&M stores in all 53 markets to be given a new life.