H&M Grand Opening Not So Grand

On Thursday, April 12, 2007, Christina Hoang, second-year biological sciences major, did not wake up to the normal dreary school day. Instead, she was excited for the long-awaited grand opening of H&M in South Coast Plaza.
H&M, more formally known as Hennes and Mauritz, began as a Swedish clothing company in 1947. In its original form, H&M was called ‘Hennes’ (Swedish for ‘hers’) and retailed women’s clothing.
Today, we are graced with H&M’s stylistic influence with more than 1,300 stores in 29 different countries. So it is no surprise that they have recently expanded into Orange County, with the H&M in South Coast Plaza, H&M Men’s located across the bridge in Crystal Court, and a third H&M in the Irvine Spectrum.
‘We would like to produce as many stores as possible,’ said Lissandra Bautista, area controller of H&M. ‘People love us for our high fashion at affordable prices. Stop by once and you will get it. You’ll understand.’
People must really understand, as there were 300 to 400 eager customers waiting in what seemed like an endless line for the scheduled noon opening. H&M is located next to the future Bloomingdale’s. The tremendous line started in front of H&M and made its way across to Sephora and around to The Clubhouse Restaurant.
In front of Banana Republic stood Michelle Nguyen, a third-year psychology major, one of the many students who left class early to line up for the opening. She had been waiting since 8:30 a.m. in hopes of finding a trendy pair of black heels that she had seen earlier in H&M, San Francisco.
‘[H&M] is trendy and good quality that I can afford at student prices!’ Nguyen said.
The earliest customers arrived at 6:30 a.m. Advertisements and radio announcements promised the first 200 in line a gift bag and a discount card. An individual could exchange their discount card for a gift card with an unknown amount, ranging from $10 to $300.
Discontent raised within an angry group of 13 people as their section in line was skipped during the distribution of gift bags and gift cards. When the disgruntled group confronted Bautista, she assured them a gift bag with a gift card definitely ranging from $25 and up.
When the group received their ‘gift bags,’ they were disappointed once again. Their bags were void of the sewing kits, shoe care kits, notepads and T-shirts seen in the gift bags given to the majority of guests. Inside their H&M totes, they found nothing but what seemed like 99-cent Tupperware. To add insult to injury, one bag contained rusty Tupperware and another bag was torn at the seam. All their gift cards were worth $10 instead of their promised $25.
‘We’ve all been here since before 8 a.m.!’ said Audrey Calahorrano, a loud and frustrated guest. ‘Their whole attitude is about giving customers excellent service and being customer-friendly but they were so unapologetic and unsympathetic. We’re in the first 100 guests! This made me turn my back on H&M.’
The line of stylish consumers began to grow restless, but when rhythmic clapping started from H&M employees within the store, spirits began to rise. Along with the clapping that began to sound like the inspirational moment of a Mighty Ducks movie came a rhythmic chanting: ‘H&M! H&M! H&M!’
A countdown began, 10, 9, 8…2,1… The red ribbon that signified the barrier between the crowd and trendy and stylish merchandise at affordable costs was cut. Guests were led to spend as much money as their credit limit would allow.
The store is completely filled with the latest fashions, including spring and summer must-haves like trapeze dresses, baby doll dresses, shirtdresses, tanks and short shorts. Classic styles met the avant-garde and chic definitely comes to mind in every piece of merchandise. Colors seemed to be more fall-oriented with shades of grays, blacks and white instead of the usual bright and bold colors of spring and summer.
Hoang, arriving at 10 a.m. and estimated at guest number 300ish, finally entered her fashion haven around 1 p.m. to spend a long and arduous five minutes in the store, coming out with nothing in hand.
‘It’s like another Forever 21 but with more sophisticated clothes and one level up in quality,’ Hoang said. ‘Honestly, waiting in line and watching all the security guards and employees panic was more fun and productive.’