H&M Ginza Opens to Huge Fanfare

Swedish shockwave pounds the status quo
18 September 2008
Reports and analysis about the fast fashion brand's entry into Japan
H&M, Ginza
Earlier this year, many wondered whether fast fashion pioneer H&M was taking too long to enter the Japanese market. Now with an incredibly-successful opening week for its Ginza store, it looks like the patience and careful planning has paid off.

At 11 a.m. on September 13, H&M opened the doors to its first Japanese retail location in the heart of glamorous Tokyo neighborhood of Ginza. More than 8,000 people came to the store throughout the day, with the queue reaching lengths of 3,000. The staff passed out water, umbrellas, and magazines to the waiting crowds. These long lines continued for entire holiday weekend.

H&M Ginza is a total 1,000 square-meters and offers four-stories of fashion shopping. The first-floor is dedicated to women's "high fashion." The second-floor is women's "trend" and daily items, while the top floor is "modern classic" — office-friendly items that will no doubt appeal to OLs and other working women. The basement floor is menswear, ranging from young trendy young items to men's suits, coats, and ties.

Located a few short blocks from rival mass fashion brands Zara and Uniqlo, H&M's store establishes the Ginza neighborhood as both a high-end retail paradise and one-stop fast fashion zone. Although some of its rivals are in danger of being cannibalized, this weekend's rush of consumers to H&M apparently increased foot traffic for most retailers in the area.

VIP customers — including celebrities Marie and Megumi — were able to attend a special invite-only shopping party on Thursday, September 11. Reporting of this exclusive event commenced a few days of heavy television coverage, which most likely extended excitement about the store's opening beyond dedicated fashion fans. H&M also plastered the Ginza train station with red advertisements that announced the opening. The massive PR push made H&M Ginza the news of the weekend and perhaps the month.

Although H&M is distinct enough in style not to directly challenge most Japanese apparel companies, many are quietly expressing worry about possible price deflation. Jaws dropped when H&M revealed their prices. Unlike other foreign brands, which normally raise prices to fit the Japanese standard, H&M has tried to keep prices almost as low as overseas. The Swedish fast fashion company now makes most other retailers look "expensive" and places the brand at a price point near recently-booming Uniqlo. Whether this drops the price standard for customers has yet to be seen.

H&M's Harajuku store opens in November and will prove the brand's ability to connect with Japan's critical youth market. The opening will correspond with the release of the special Rei Kawakubo collaboration line, sure to bring in a rush of leading-edge consumers. A Shibuya store is planned for 2009, and rumors suggest a Shinjuku location soon after. In an interview with Nikkei, H&M CEO Rolf Erikson stated plans for the brand to expand into Japanese shopping centers.

Next page: H&M's Challenges and Opportunities 
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