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Originally published July 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 25, 2008 at 6:06 PM

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Retail Report

H&M opens first Seattle-area store

H&M is predicting hundreds of people will line up this morning to get their first look at its new Southcenter store, the Swedish retailer's initial foray into the Seattle market.

Seattle Times business reporters

At H&M's new store in Westfield Southcenter, an argyle cardigan sweater can be had for $24.90, a lacy push-up bra for under $20, and a brightly colored tank top for only $5.90.

Just don't think of it as cheap chic.

Jennifer Uglialoro, a New York-based spokeswoman for H&M, said the most common misperception about the Swedish retailer is that its clothes fall apart after a few wash cycles.

"These are quality clothes that hold up," she said, pointing to the stylish black blouse with brass buttons she's wearing.

Uglialoro paid $24.90 for it at another H&M store two years ago, and the "buttons are still here," she noted. "It's still perfect since the day I bought it." (Uglialoro also is wearing dark slim-fit jeans, but she didn't get them at H&M — and, she added, "they're falling apart at the bottom!")

Uglialoro gave local media a tour of the new store Thursday before it opens to the public today at 10 a.m. It's part of a $240 million Southcenter expansion that also opens today, delivering an additional 400,000 square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment space.

H&M expects between 400 and 600 people to start lining up outside the mall early this morning to be among the first inside the new store. That prediction is based on recent turnouts at H&M openings elsewhere in the U.S., Uglialoro says, but she predicts an especially strong showing given that this is H&M's first store in the Seattle area.

The store covers 25,000 square feet across two floors with clothes, shoes, accessories and lingerie, with departments for women, men, teens and children. It has 70 employees, seven cash registers, 20 dressing rooms and a set of escalators.

H&M will open smaller stores at University Village and downtown's 520 Pike Tower in September. The University Village store will be 19,000 square feet, and the downtown store will be 16,000 square feet. They'll focus on women, men and teens, leaving out children.

H&M (formally Hennes & Mauritz) opened its first U.S. store in New York in 2000 and now has 156 stores in 22 states. Worldwide, it has more than 1,500 stores in 29 countries.

Its team of designers, patternmakers and buyers work with some 700 suppliers throughout Asia and Europe to turn out clothing quickly — anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.

Uglialoro explains that by limiting its reliance on middlemen and leveraging its massive buying power, H&M can keep down prices while introducing new merchandise in stores daily. "No one realizes that you can have high fashion and low prices," she said.

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But don't expect everyone to cheer when H&M opens today. Britt Beemer, a consumer analyst with America's Research Group in Orlando, Fla., says H&M will take sales away from a wide range of retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, Kohl's, JCPenney and Target.

H&M understands "that if people can buy fashion cheap, they'll have to be beaten off with a stick," Beemer said. "Fashion at a cheap price is an unbelievable combination. Probably the only other retailer who does it well day in and day out is Target."

— Amy Martinez

Tidbits

The expanded Southcenter mall also gets a food court with seating for about 1,100 and a handful of eateries new to the Seattle area: Chicken Now, Daphne's Greek Cafe, Kudo Beans, Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill and Sushi Itto Go. The food court has 16 eateries in all. — AM

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates' operating profit rose 30 percent to $14.8 million in the second quarter, according to a securities filing by its Connecticut-based parent company, UST. Net sales were up 25 percent to $99.1 million during the quarter. Strong growth came across the wine segment's products, including the recently acquired Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, UST said. Ste. Michelle also launched a new advertising campaign for Columbia Crest and expanded its sales force. — MA

Zipfizz, the energy drink-mix company in Mill Creek, has signed a deal with CVS/pharmacy to carry Zipfizz three-packs at more than 6,000 retail locations. Earlier this year, Zipfizz signed distribution agreements with Target, Rite Aid, Bartell Drugs and others. — MA

Julep Nail Parlor opens a third location today at Uptown Gig Harbor, a new outdoor-oriented retail development. Julep founder Jane Park, a Yale-trained lawyer and former Starbucks executive, opened her first nail parlor last summer near University Village. A second Julep opened this spring in downtown Seattle. — AM

Elliott Bay Brewing received organic certification for 12 of its draft beers from the Washington Department of Agriculture. The brewery makes 15 to 20 beers at a brew house in Burien and a facility in West Seattle. — MA

Five of the 19 stores Starbucks is closing in Washington are in Top Food & Drug stores in Aberdeen, East Wenatchee, Federal Way, Kent and Yakima. In Oregon, a sixth grocery owned by the same parent company, Bellingham's Haggen, also has a Starbucks scheduled to close. Haggen still has 14 stores with Starbucks that are expected to stay open, including a Top Food & Drug in Everett that was the first grocery to have a Starbucks. — MA

Brooks Sports, a Bothell running company, has hired Michelle Ave as director of global apparel. Ave previously worked at Reebok, where she helped build the brand in running and technical apparel. Ave placed fifth in the 800-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in 1996. — AM

Elysian Brewing of Seattle and New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colo., have decided to make their beers at each other's breweries in an alliance they say will improve efficiency and encourage creative experimentation.

New Belgium, known for its Fat Tire Amber Ale, will get closer to customers in the Pacific Northwest, while Elysian will be able to brew larger batches in Colorado to handle its growing distribution as it moves into new markets like New York. — MA

Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Retail Report
Retail Report is a look at the trends, issues and people who makeup the dynamic and versatile retail sector throughout the Puget Sound region. Every Friday with Melissa Allison and Amy Martinez. Send tips or comments to mallison@seattletimes.com or amartinez@seattletimes.com.

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