The Swedish giant, also known as Hennes & Mauritz, released the news of its Kiwi arrival in September as part of its latest quarterly report. CEO Karl-Johan Persson said then that as H&M expands into new online markets rapidly, it is upping the ante with bricks and mortar stores, too.
“In parallel with our rapid online expansion we are also opening stores at a fast pace,” Persson says. “In the fourth quarter we will open approximately 240 new stores net – which is almost three new stores per day. Next year, we plan to open stores in three new markets: New Zealand, Cyprus and Puerto Rico.”
H&M is part of a fast-expanding cohort of global fast fashion retailers which includes Spanish brand Zara and New Zealand's latest addition, UK-based Topshop. Its release today describes its offering as "high fashion and quality basics at affordable prices in the most sustainable way."
Chris Wilkinson, managing director of First Retail Group Ltd, says First had been aware that Sylvia Park owner Kiwi Property had a large tenant about to arrive as it had been shuffling tenancies in order to create "a space of real scale". Asked to speculate on why H&M chose Sylvia Park, Wilkinson says the site was likely one of the few that could deliver the scale necessary for H&M's preferred store formats. He says this kind of site is simply not available in New Zealand's trendier fashion districts such as Queen St and Newmarket.
"In the longer term, Scentre's plans for 277 [a Westfield branch in Newmarket] could include this size of anchor - but given the rapid on-boarding of these uber-scale retailers into the NZ market, they won't want to wait."
H&M's store formats are fresh, minimalist and very much focused on the product, Wilkinson says. He anticipates a strong omnichannel focus, with customers encouraged to mix their shopping experiences both instore and online.
Wilkinson says the arrival of H&M will be a real benefit for Sylvia Park and for the surrounding retailers. Referring to the success of Topshop's branch on Queen St, he says all the retailers in the immediate area of this kind of outlet benefit from its foot traffic, and enjoy strong sales as consumers explore these new anchors.
The new H&M store will refocus consumers on the bricks-and-mortar store as core to an overall shopping experience, Wilkinson says.
"Once wallets open, this does benefit the wider retail community."
Wilkinson praised fast fashion such as H&M and Topshop as a "stepping stone" to designer clothing for aspirational consumers, describing it as a vital part of the fashion retail ecosystem.
"We know consumers increasingly love to mix fast, value priced fashion with designer brands, so it's not unusual for a $20 Glassons t-shirt to be paired with $400 G-Star jeans," he says. "This is another way we feel others will win."
Kiwi Property chief executive Chris Gudgeon says his team is thrilled to welcome H&M. The centre plans to invest $7.7 million into accommodating H&M and upgrading adjacent mall areas.
“We really believe in investing in Auckland’s growth, and bringing H&M to Sylvia Park is part of our plan to create a truly world-class retail offer in an increasingly world-class city," Gudgeon says. “Almost a decade ago when Sylvia Park opened, few could imagine that Kiwi Property would turn a brown-field site next to a motorway into New Zealand’s best shopping centre. Sylvia Park is today Auckland’s premier retail destination, with more than 12 million shoppers coming through our flagship shopping centre every year."