MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Greeting fashion-conscious bargain hunters inside H&M’s new South Beach store – located at the Lincoln Theatre – is a 19-foot LED screen with videos of models parading down the runway in the hottest fashion looks.
The rebirth of the historic theatre marks the long-awaited arrival of H&M in Miami Beach, which sets out to restore the glamour of the 1930s building.
The two-story store opens at noon Thursday with free giveaways and what is guaranteed to be long lines of excited consumers. Inside, they will find the type of chic, affordable fashion that is the trademark of the Swedish retailer, whose full name is Hennes & Mauritz.
Whether your style is trendy or more classic, there is something to mix and match at H&M. Prices range from under $5 for accessories to just under $100 for a wool coat but with the majority of the items priced below $50.
Throughout the Miami Beach store there is plenty of burgundy — one of the hot colors for fall. It comes in everything from skinny jeans for men and women to a sleeveless leather peplum top, another popular style for the season.
In one of the store windows on Lincoln Road, you’ll find mannequins displaying long, lean silhouettes of black and winter white, designed to make a dramatic fashion statement. The other window pays homage to the theater’s past with a look reminiscent of The Great Gatsby era. Lead visual merchandiser Edwin Mercedes and the team have carried that 1930s retro feel throughout the merchandising of the new Miami Beach store.
After years of an H&M drought, fans will have double the fun. The Miami Beach opening will be followed by a second H&M store at Aventura Mall next month.
These two stores are only the beginning of H&M’s expansion plans for South Florida. H&M’s North American President Daniel Kulle told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald on Wednesday that Florida and Texas as the company’s current top expansion priorities. The company opened its first store in Orlando in 2009 and will have nine in Florida by the end of the year.
“We have the resources to execute a lot of expansion,” Kulle told the Herald. “There are a lot of strong malls around Miami. We will take it mall by mall. We are more keen on having the right spot and the right quality than just having numbers.”
Kulle said the company decided about seven years ago that Lincoln Road and Aventura Mall were its top expansion priorities in South Florida. H&M had to bide its time because the chain wasn’t willing to compromise just to get a store open, and 25,000-square-foot spaces in that prime real estate aren’t easy to find. H&M has only been in the U.S. since 2000, but Miami Beach will be its 259th store.
“There have been opportunities along the way, but we wanted to find the one that was perfect,” Kulle said. “When you’re entering a new market you want to go to the best location.”
H&M won’t sell any different merchandise in Miami Beach than it does in Minnesota. Kulle says the company has not had any issues in any other warm weather markets, including Arizona, California and Las Vegas.
The retailer will navigate Florida’s unique weather challenges by adjusting its assortment mix. While you’ll still find the wool sweaters and coats, there will not be nearly as many of them in varying sizes and colors.
“We have the same merchandise in the whole country, but we can adjust the mix based on location,” Kulle said. “We’re not a cookie cutter company. We’re very hands-on and focused on merchandising the store in the right way for that market. Each store manager has the authority to say, ‘I want to emphasize more of these items.’ ”
The Miami Beach store will open with a mix of fall and early winter styles. That means you will still find wool sweaters, scarves, gloves and hats. But there’s also at least a good selection of styles more appropriate for the South Florida weather.
There are items like a $24.95 chiffon sleeveless blouse with lace trim and a $29.95 sleeveless mini dress with a sequin top and tulle skirt.
Add to that sunglasses, men’s bathing suits and plenty of graphic T-shirts, including the retro MTV throwback shirt that was famous in the 1980s. For men you’ll find $29.95 chinos in a rainbow of colors like forest green, mustard yellow and scarlet red or a $69.95 cotton blazer.
But the beauty of H&M is that the merchandise keeps changing, with new shipments arriving daily. Even the displays are redone every two weeks. The Miami Beach location is one of five flagship stores, which carry all the brand’s designer collaborations like the Maison Martin Margiela collection hitting stores on Nov. 15.
“There will always be something surprising in store,” Kulle said. “We like to keep that excitement.”
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)