Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

H&M plans to open 25,000-square-foot store at Polo Park next fall

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Journalists take photos of displays during a press preview of an H&M store in Tokyo, Japan, which drew crowds that stretched for several blocks.

KATSUMI KASAHARA / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Journalists take photos of displays during a press preview of an H&M store in Tokyo, Japan, which drew crowds that stretched for several blocks.

After teasing Winnipeggers for the last five years, popular fashion retailer H&M has announced it's coming to Winnipeg.

The popular Swedish-based company will open a 25,000-square-foot store at Polo Park Shopping Centre next fall.

Emily Scarlett, Toronto-based spokeswoman for H&M Canada, said Winnipeg has been on the company's wish list for some time but it needed to find the right location.

"It always comes down to size. We need a minimum of 20,000 square feet when we enter a new market," she said.

In fact, H&M -- the initials stand for Hennes & Mauritz -- will have 25,000 square feet of space to display its full range of clothing for men, women, teenagers, children and babies.

Just where H&M will hang its shingle in the mall remains under wraps, but it's hard to imagine it won't end up in the reconfigured space on the second floor that used to be Zellers.

Deborah Green, manager of Winnipeg's biggest mall, was all too aware of H&M's near misses in Winnipeg. A couple of years ago, H&M sent out a message on Twitter, "Hey Winnipeg! We're looking to expand even further in Canada! Where would an ideal Winnipeg location be? Polo Park?"

In fall 2009, the company advertised on its own website for sales staff in Winnipeg but nothing came from it.

A year later, a company spokesman said Winnipeg was at the top of its "wish list" but it needed to find the "perfect location."

So, when H&M was preparing, as it always does with new store openings, to send the press release out on a Thursday, Green suggested a slight change of plan to avoid making the announcement on Oct. 31.

"We thought it might get lost in everybody talking about Halloween," Green said.

Added Scarlett: "We didn't want people to think we were playing a trick on them."

Green could barely contain her excitement at the news. She hesitated to call the arrival the biggest in the mall's history, though.

"That would be like picking your favourite child. This is a retailer that everybody has been waiting for to come to the city. For us, it's just gigantic," she said.

The store will employ about 75 people, including full-time and part-time employees, management and visual merchandisers.

Local fashion fans have been clamouring for H&M for almost as long as home-furnishings lovers lobbied for IKEA -- another Swedish company -- before it christened its Winnipeg store last November.

When H&M does cut the ribbon, expect a mob scene. Scarlett said when it christened its first location in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago, nearly 1,000 people lined up prior to its morning opening.

Green said the mall will make an announcement in the future regarding its renovation plans to the 90,000-square-foot space on the mall's second floor, which housed Zellers until earlier this year.

"There isn't a retailer large enough in Canada these days that would take that big a location (on its own)," Green said.

"We want to say, 'this is our plan. Go big or go home.' "

H&M will be the second-biggest non-anchor store in the mall after Forever 21, she said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2013 B6

History

Updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 6:22 AM CDT: Changes headline, replaces photo

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