H&M Aims for ‘Elevated’ Experience for SoHo Store

H&M has returned to SoHo in grand fashion with a modernized playbook.

The 9,800-square-foot setting, located at 591 Broadway, is a women’s-only concept weighted toward the Swedish brand’s trendier and more tailored styles, and rigged with the company’s latest tech and service innovations.

More from WWD

Radio frequency identification readers suspended from the ceiling throughout the store capture data from the assortment to locate product styles, sizes and colors. There’s mobile checkout for the 15 store associates, in addition to the central cash wrap, and a large lower-level stockroom for the staff to readily replenish products.

From H&M’s women’s-only collection in SoHo.
From H&M’s women’s-only collection in SoHo.

On the selling floor, there’s a central staging area for fashion shows and other events; two huge LED screens for fashion videos; a pickup station with secure lockers for orders placed online; a drop-off area for recycling clothes, and eight fitting rooms with “smart mirrors” with touch screen technology enabling customers to see size and color options, other details about the products, and request items to be brought to fitting rooms by a sales associate. The mirrors also provide personalized product or styling recommendations.

“This is very much a new format for us, not necessarily the standard for the future, but we are continuing to test new concepts,” Linda Li, head of customer activation and marketing, H&M Americas, told WWD.

“The focus is to be able to show the most fashion-forward pieces in the collection, merging that with the latest in retail technology, and present an elevated shopping experience overall,” Li said.

In SoHo, H&M will sell belted bandeau dresses, cropped utility jackets, denim midi skirts, a double-breasted trenchcoat and ’90s-inspired baggy jeans.

H&M SoHo also has a “Pre-Loved” shop-in-shop featuring secondhand pieces from third parties, and is the first H&M location in North America to do so. New York-based James Veloria, a seller of designer vintage clothing and accessories, will curate pieces to augment the “Pre-Loved” offering.

“We’ve been selling vintage designer clothing in our small Chinatown shop for almost seven years now but this new project will allow us to reach a much larger audience,” said Collin James, co-owner of James Veloria. “Our collection of vintage clothing and accessories for H&M Pre-Loved will offer a new way to shop sustainably with timeless pieces from the past that can be mixed into any modern closet. The rotating curation of 30 to 40 pieces will include a wide mix of styles from classic Italian tailoring to avant-garde Japanese statement pieces.”

Li said SoHo marks the first time that H&M has pulled together an extensive array of tech features and innovations into a single setting. She noted that at the temporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, store, opened in November 2022 and closed in August 2023, the smart mirrors were tested, and that the Pre-Loved concept is seen inside H&M’s London and Barcelona locations. H&M previously had a store at 515 Broadway in SoHo, which was about twice the size as the new one, but was closed in January 2022. With the SoHo return, H&M operates 10 stores in Manhattan.

“The general mentality is to test and learn from SoHo and possibly apply to various different locations,” said Li. “The technical features, especially those that guide the shopping experience, the mobile checkout, the smart mirrors, and the RFID, we could see that rolling out. Pre-Loved is not in all, (stores) but could be in unique locations.”

H&M SoHo.
H&M SoHo.

H&M SoHo, a former loft warehouse for fashion accessories, belts and buttons, retains the industrial character of the neighborhood, with its original brick walls freshly painted white, and high ceilings with exposed ductwork

“SoHo has such a rich unique history and is architecturally unique,” said Li, adding that H&M made sure to retain the original industrial feel of the building, while modernizing the setting with the new technologies as well as the track lighting, fashion and fixtures. The store extends all the way from Broadway west to Mercer Street, for an open and airy feeling, and has entrances on both sides.

“This new location marks our return to SoHo, a neighborhood which continues to be an epicenter of fashion and style,” Carlos Duarte, president of H&M Americas, said in a statement. “We’ve been testing new store concepts in New York City, such as our recent H&M Williamsburg store experience with the aim of building the best, elevated shopping experience for our customers.”

In 2024, as previously reported by WWD, H&M plans to open 100 new units in emerging markets around the world and close 160 stores in established markets that are underperforming. Among the openings will be a new flagship in London’s hip Chelsea neighborhood, which like the SoHo store, will be experiential and focused on fashion-forward products with elevated styling.

The facade of H&M in SoHo.
The facade of H&M in SoHo.

For the fourth quarter of 2023, the company reported sales were down 1 percent, and last week the company announced that H&M Group chief executive officer Helena Helmersson stepped down and was succeeded by Daniel Ervér, who will also remain in his position as head of the group’s flagship brand H&M.

Regionally, performance seems to be mixed. Eastern Europe, especially Poland, was cited as performing strongly, and India saw double-digit growth, while China is starting to rebound after weak sales and a slower-than-expected post-pandemic recovery, according to the company. H&M Group is planning to shutter 28 stores and lay off nearly 590 workers in Spain.

H&M also indicated that the U.S. has been trending upward, but the company will look to strengthen H&M as a lifestyle brand and invest in its beauty and home sectors. It opened 46 H&M Home shops-in-shop over the last year.

From the women’s-only collection at H&M SoHo.
From the women’s-only collection at H&M SoHo.

Best of WWD