H&M – Melbourne’s Newest Retail Address

This article was originally published in TAT Girl Issue #2 in November 2013

http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/emagazines/girl/issue2/#p=14

H&M

H&M – Melbourne’s Newest Retail Address

You only have to look around the street to see that Australia is home to some seriously stylish people, but it’s taken international high street fashion stores a long time to reach our shores.

Following in the footsteps of Gap, Topshop and Zara, Swedish retail chain H&M has finally announced it will arrive in Australia.

Wooooo!

As one of my favourite shops due to its on-trend styles at very affordable prices, needless to say I was rather excited when I heard the news (If by ‘rather excited’ you mean shrieking hysterically, jumping up and down and updating my Facebook status!)

And it gets even better – with the brand choosing to open its first store in Melbourne’s iconic GPO building next year. The Melbourne H&M store will be the Australian flagship, spanning three levels and taking up 5000m2.

For many fashionistas, shopping in H&M, along with other international brands, was a luxury previously restricted to overseas travel. The sheer chaos that occurred when both Topshop and Zara first opened here show that Australians are clearly excited by their arrival.

But unfortunately it does come at a cost.

A boutique luxury retail precinct since 2005, GPO houses Australian designers including Veronika Maine, Lisa Ho, Sass and Bide, Life with Bird and Manning Cartell. Most have actually been told they will have to move out to make space for H&M. Their leases have not been renewed, and many will lose a premium retail space on one of Melbourne’s busiest shopping streets, although some, like Sass and Bide, will move into the new Myer Emporium when it opens next year.

So what do we do? While I’m excited to finally be able to shop regularly in H&M, it’s a shame that the luxury comes at the expense of our own local fashion industry.

It’s also interesting to consider the totally different target market H&M has compared to the brands that are moving out. Most are predominantly luxury brands, whereas H&M will share its market with chains like Supre, Dotti, Bardot and Valleygirl. It seems a strange choice for an up-market retail precinct, but I suppose owners want something that they know will definitely encourage visitors – and the novelty of H&M when it first opens will certainly generate that.

The arrival of international fashion retailers also poses challenges to existing retailers, because it often provides us shoppers with fast fashion at cheaper prices than local shops currently offer. The sheer number of us turning to online stores like ASOS (Australians make a purchase every six seconds!) make it clear that local fashion retailers are not always offering fashion of the best variety, price or value.

While it’s always important to support our local industry, I wonder how many of us would – or could afford to – shop solely in Australian retailers if it meant paying more for essentially the same product. Would you? And for those whose only concern is being fashionable and on-trend, why would you pay more for less, when you can pay less and get more elsewhere?

That’s not to say we don’t have some great Australian fashion stores, though. There are some fantastic finds and bargains to be found, whether you’re on a budget or not – it’s just a matter of training your eye to spot them. Researching what you’re looking for to find the best price ensures you’ll avoid purchase regret when you see it cheaper in a different shop, and physically trying things on in store changing rooms will always trump online shopping for me.

More retail competition from overseas should mean local retailers will become more competitive, offering great products at reasonable prices – resulting in major benefits for consumers.

While it’s great to finally join the rest of the world by having access to stores like H&M, Topshop and Zara, it doesn’t spell the end for the fantastic fashion chains that are unique to us here in Australia. We’re a fashionable country, and in my opinion, you can never too many clothes. Here’s to a shopping spree!

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