A few minutes after 10 a.m. today, 50 or so people stood in line outside the H&M Preview store in NorthPark Center behind a polyester rope, anxiously awaiting the first-ever opportunity to buy off-the-rack H&M clothing on Texas soil. Stroller-pushers, grandparents and fashionistas of all genders clapped as we made our way into the store, were handed goodie bags and caught on film by H&M cameras.
I made a beeline for a black rhinestone-studded minidress I'd had my eye on since yesterday, when I popped by to scout out the store's location -- it's in the old Express space by La Madeline and Dillard's -- and proceeded to the dressing room with more holiday party gear in hand. The store's opening with a festive line for seasonal shindigs, but Luca Michelangeli, H&M's sales project manager on hand, told me the collections will be rotated in and out of the store until they shut the doors in April. In January, expect spring previews and, later, kids' clothing too.
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"It's not just to shop, but to experience the brand," Michelangeli said. Because Dallas is new to the H&M fun-for-the-whole-family ethos -- "fashion and quality at the best price" -- the company wanted to give the market a chance to kind of warm up to the overwhelming experience that can be walking into a multi-story, multi-collection H&M store. But shoppers I talked to in the store seemed to be well versed in the language of H&M.
"I've been flying to Philadelphia and New York City," one man told me as he waited in line to buy an armful of smart shirts and a pair of Oxfords. "I already go there for work, but H&M is the first stop." But, sure, anyone willing to wait in line to shop at the place is going to be a fan already. Those who've never heard of the chain are advised to go in on a slow day (funny, right, during Christmas?), Michelangeli told me, so they can talk to the sales reps and get an idea of "how do you navigate the collections."
The store's also got a lounge-type area with a flat-screen television playing an H&M infomercial on loop, and Michelangeli said they'll also have iPads out on slower days so people can stop by and register for the H&M mailing list. That way, they'll be fully prepared for the opening of the big, big store in October, 2011.
I feel like I should add: squeeeeeeeeeeeeee.