Retail

Exclusive look inside: H&M's revamped retail concept

by Caitlyn Terra
29 Nov 2019

Stockholm - H&M 4.0. It is no secret that H&M has been taking a closer look at new retail concepts in recent years. The Swedish chain is looking for the answer to the same question many other brands and retailers in today's market: How do we remain relevant, while also providing convenience customers? That is why H&M's store concepts have taken on a new form. There was the British Hammersmith store, the German Mitte Garten store and now the Sergel store in Stockholm. H&M's store is developing, although in this respect it can be better referred to as “fine tuning”. At first glance, the renovated shop in the Swedish city does not seem drastically different. However, opinions adjust as people dive deeper into the shop and discover the new design and the various services. FashionUnited was invited to Stockholm and was given a tour of the building two days before the opening.

It was made clear that H&M was moving away from the 'white box’ store design when images of the Hammersmith flagship were shared last year. The atmosphere was warm and intimate, thanks in part to the soft beige tones and the number of plants that gave the concept more life. If the Hammersmith store was a test subject for the makeover it seems that it was successful looking at the store in Stockholm. Throughout the store, soft tones have been used: in men's fashion tones are darker and go more towards grey, and in women's fashion, it is a lighter shade. “The entire shop is modular so that the interior can be changed at any time. This helps the sustainable character of the store,” says Pascal Brun, head of sustainability, during the tour. This store should be the forerunner in the field of circularity at H&M. Everything was developed with the idea that the interior should last as long as possible, but remain relevant. LED lamps are used throughout the store and the energy used is renewable. “This means that no fossil fuels are used to generate the energy,” Brun explains when asked.

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In pictures: How H&M continues to develop the shopping experience

In addition to the interior, which has visibly changed from the standard H&M store, it offers services not available in most of the other retail locations. What cannot go without mentioning is the new rental service offered in the same building. The service desk is located on the second floor, to the right of the escalators and next to the fitting room. Not only can orders be picked up there online, but this is also the place where you can book a time slot to make use of the rental service.

Here, a personal stylist helps customers to pick out a dress or skirt (because the service is being tested they are currently only renting these two types of fashion). Renting a garment costs 350 kronar, 28.50 GBP (36 US dollars). A garment can be rented for a week and are allowed up to three pieces at a time. "This is the future," says Maria Östblom head of design in womanswear at the brand. "Some things people will always buy, but a part they will rent." For the test with the rental service, it was decided to use pieces from the Conscious Exclusive collection. These are items with a higher price, 'which are bought for one occasion and then remain in the closet,' says Brun. "These items have the biggest impact on our CO2 emissions because they are only worn once." In addition to the items from the Conscious Exclusive collection, there will also be a 'drop' every six months of items specially designed for the rental service. The designs are all inspired by the previous Conscious Exclusive collections. Brun doesn't rule out the possibility of adding other items at a later stage, suits for men come to his mind first because he doesn't often wear a suit himself. He quickly adds that the next category added will be accessories. The decision to add other items to the rental range will only be finalized after the first period of the test has been completed in about three months.

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Clothing rental service H&M debuts in refurbished store in Stockholm

Not entirely new, but still worth mentioning is the repair and remake service that can be found on the third floor of the building. Tests with this service have already taken place in 17 shops. In the Netherlands, for example, H&M already offers a ‘Take Care service’, but not yet a repair service like in other countries. Online, the brand provides tips and hacks to take care of and restore garments. Each country has its own preferences for the service, says Brun. In France they love customization, in Sweden a lot of repairs are done and in the Netherlands they love to turn old garments into another item.

The specialty beauty bar, located on the second floor, will open earlier than the rest of the store, at half past seven in the morning. Customers are now able to go to the beauty bar before they heading off to work. The garments offered on the same floor are of course for sale, so for anyone with a clothing crisis in the morning will have a solution. In the special beauty area, people can have their nails, hair or make-up done. Or all the above. It's also possible to have a face mask at the bar. The beauty bar is also open later in the evening so that people can get a touch-up for a date, for example, as mentioned in the tour. The decor of the area sets it apart from the rest of the store. Giving off Instagram-worthy vibes with pink chairs and various floral arrangements that decorate the ceiling.

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Other services at the new-and-improved H&M are Scan & Buy, the option to pay afterwards, and a coffee bar that can be found at the entrance of the shop. Scan & buy has been possible at all H&M's global stores for some time, but the chain has chosen to give the concept some extra space in the Stockholm store. Menswear, for example, has a dedicated area created with exclusive pieces that do not always have all the colours or sizes in the store. By scanning the tag of the item it is easy to order online where more options are possible. H&M also uses in-store self-checkout cash registers where shoppers can even choose to pay afterwards. This option is linked to the H&M app, so that customers are recognised and the invoices sent at a later time. The outstanding amount must be paid within 30 days.

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Stockholm's refurbished service-packed H&M store

During the tour Brun answers the question: Will H&M is ever going to stop testing new services and concepts? Brun answers with a simple “no”. It's about incorporating local and being as relevant as possible. The content of the 3,000 square metre store on the Drottninggatan has been curated so that it fits in perfectly with the customer walking down this specific busy shopping street. "The public here is much wider than, for example, at the Mitte Garten store in Berlin," says Maria Östblom. "The shop is located there in a creative area, where everyone comes along." Head of business development, Daniel Claesson, adds that the area sees a lot of people in a hurry each morning on their way to work. The fact that the store is now open at 7:30 AM means that customers can still enjoy the services at the last minute and buy something before they go to work.

After the tour of the shop, the amount of information is dizzying. It is clear that H&M, which has its head office two buildings away from the Drottninggatan store, remains committed to being as relevant as possible to a specific customer. The Swedish chain has plans to scale up various services in other countries, but where and when is not mentioned. The company does reveal, however, that next year the H&M store on the iconic Dam Square in Amsterdam will be overhauled. Perhaps an H&M 5.0? Let’s see.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL, translated and edited.

Photos courtesy of H&M