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Rumours of H&M in Winnipeg swirl again

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One of the most hotly-anticipated retail arrivals may be one step closer to becoming a reality in Winnipeg.

The Canadian division of H&M sent out the following message on Twitter Thursday – "Hey Winnipeg! We're looking to expand even further in Canada! Where would an ideal Winnipeg location be? Polo Park?"

Rumours of the pending arrival of the Swedish-based "fast-forward" fashion retailer have been swirling in Winnipeg for several years but while it appears to be a step closer, a company spokesperson confirmed that no new locations have been announced.

"I believe the tweet was reaching out to our customers to see where they would like the next H&M to be," the spokesperson said via e-mail.

One local marketing expert said Thursday’s tweet indicated to him that H&M’s arrival in Winnipeg is a fait accompli.

"I think that means they’ve found their location," said Robert Warren, a marketing professor at the I.H. Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba.

Much like Hollister or Forever21, both of which recently arrived in Winnipeg at Polo Park Shopping Centre, H&M – the initials stand for Hennes & Mauritz - offers "cheap chic" clothing targeted at the younger demographic. Warren said certain items on its shelves could be in today but out of style a couple of months from now.

"If you’re looking for something that will make you look like you follow the fashion magazines, (H&M) is definitely the place to go to," he said.

"They’re constantly switching up the fashions. Fashion seasons are six to eight weeks long now. You go from early spring to spring, then to late spring and then you’re into early summer."

Warren said just because H&M doesn’t yet have a store in Winnipeg doesn’t mean you can’t see its clothing on 18 to 35 year old fashionistas in the city.

"Winnipeggers are very familiar with H&M from trips to Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and throughout the U.S. You can’t go anywhere without seeing an H&M in the States," he said.

H&M fans have good reason for being cautious as there have been false alarms before. In the fall of 2009, the company advertised on its own website for sales staff in Winnipeg but nothing came from it. A year ago, a company spokesperson said Winnipeg was at the top of its "wish list" but it needed to find the "perfect location."

The Polo Park ship may have already sailed, however. Deborah Green, manager of Winnipeg’s largest mall, said she offered H&M space 18 months ago but was turned down.

Since then, the mall overhauled the former home of Canada Safeway for Forever 21 and Green said the mall is full, primarily with long-term tenants.

"I’ve got no vacancy. I can’t pull 25,000 square feet out of my back pocket. They’d be an awesome tenant but I don’t know where I’d accommodate them," she said.

H&M opened its first Canadian location in 2004. Today, it has more than 50 stores across the country and more than 2,000 around the world.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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