Last week the Observer‘s Robert Wilonsky gave us the scoop that low-cost, high-fashion store H&M may be announcing plans to open a Dallas store — possibly even early this week. I’m a huge H&M fan, and have always wondered why Dallas, with its reputation for trendy fashion retailers, hadn’t yet lured the international company.
In fact, I’m working on a story that included interviews with two commercial real estate experts on this very topic. What they both told me is that H&M’s arrival in Dallas is only a matter of time. After the jump, find out more on why it’s taken so long, and what H&M is looking for in terms of real estate.
Because H&M “has a fashion forward product for a great price … obviously there’s a need and a demand for them, especially in this economy,” says Kent Arnold, assistant vice president of Henry S. Miller’s retail division. Plus, says David Shelton, vice-president of United Commercial Realty urban, “H&M has been in this town and looked around this market several times.” Shelton calls the store’s concept “fast fashion — styles are always changing and coming in and out.”
So what’s the hold up? Shelton says H&M’s goal of getting merchandise quickly in and out of their stores has something to do with it. “The most recent information I’ve heard is that H&M is really focused on markets that have more seasonality to them than Texas does.” H&M has more of a presence in areas like the Northeast, he says, “where you get a real summer, a real fall, a real spring, a real winter — where they can really capitalize on those four seasons.” Another reason H&M hasn’t launched in Dallas is because, simply, the company can afford to drag its feet. “They are waiting on the perfect real estate move,” Arnold says. “A fashion forward quality product for a good price will always work. They can afford to wait on the perfect location. There’s absolutely no reason for them to be in a hurry — one store will not make or break them.”
Any chance that the rumors will prove false, that Dallasites hopes of luring an H&M will be ultimately dashed? No way. “There’s no question” that H&M will come to Dallas, Shelton says. “It’s a major fashion retailer on a global scale, and Dallas is a top market. There’s just too many people here to ignore, and too much success for other retailers.”
Where will H&M open its first Dallas store? Both experts are betting on NorthPark Center. “There’s a lot to be said for the power that NorthPark has,” Shelton says. “NorthPark is probably a top five mall in country in terms of sales and co-tenancy (mix of quality retailers — middle-market fashion but also extreme high-end boutique retailers), and tenancy drives a lot of decisions that retailers will make.”
Arnold agrees that “since NorthPark has expanded, that would probably be where I would be leaning,” but says H&M has likely also considered the Galleria as “a good possibility. … Owners of both malls have probably given their best pitch to get ’em in” and spoken directly with H&M real estate directors, “Arnold says. “I guarantee they’ve made [H&M] offers.” Plus, Arnold says, NorthPark and Galleria owners “know what’s coming up and whether a retailer is struggling. H&M is going to sign a long-term deal, so why come in even six months or a year early if they can wait a year for a 15- or 20-year lease?”