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H&M kicks off 2019 with a new concept

H&M launches a new concept store in Hammersmith, marking a significant departure from its typical store aesthetic and tapping into the growing sustainability market. Senior Designer, Sarah Hopkinson, pays a visit and shares her thoughts. 

Calm. Green. Layered. Textural. Not words you associate with H&M’s mass estate of stores…until now. The new 2,300sqm Hammersmith site, its first new strategy concept store, is all of these things. Aesthetically aligned more closely to sister brand ‘& Other Stories’, the store is a radical departure from the glossy white, fast fashion stores H&M is known for.

An elevated ‘covered courtyard’ aesthetic

A stone floor as you enter, combined with a wealth of greenery, sets the scene for its ‘covered courtyard’ aesthetic. The palette of warm, textured neutrals is both inviting and peaceful. Lowered lighting levels and a carefully curated music playlist of laid-back Spanish and Italian pop adds to the feeling that the customer is encouraged to dwell. This is a far more aspirational shopping experience than the brand’s usual fast-paced stack-em-high aesthetic.

The approach to product is curated and largely merchandised single height. Beauty and accessories have their own dedicated area but are also interspersed throughout the store to allow the customer to shop a complete outfit. These displays are elevated with relevant coffee table books that sell the lifestyle.

Sustainable messages to attract Gen Z

The overall store aesthetic is distinctly natural and has a strong Mediterranean vibe, however this push towards a more natural approach extends past the decoration. Each of the till areas houses messaging that encourages shoppers to recycle their old clothing for a small, incentivising discount and, on the first floor, a section of the store is dedicated to H&M’s new ‘Repair and Remake’ station.

Here customers can have items mended or given a new lease of life with some personalised embroidery. The service is free for H&M club members and starts at just £3 for other customers. On a neighbouring bay, H&M branded ‘Laundry Liquid’ offers a ‘gentle detergent at low temperatures’, highlighting that this is the ‘environmentally friendly choice’. It’s a far cry from the disposable fashion culture that H&M is often berated for encouraging. With Millennials and Gen Z increasingly likely to prefer brands that tackle the bigger issues, rather than just sell stuff (Scott Goodson, found of Strawberryfrog), this is a smart move.

A shopping journey with varying pace

Elsewhere, customers are encouraged to try out beauty and make-up products at a stone sink built into the beauty pick-up table and, throughout the store, simple printed-paper labels highlight ‘staff picks’ and ‘party favourites’ – once again elevating the experience. And for those not enticed by the slower pace, there are self-service checkouts and an in-store app, which encourages customers to save favourites and check in-store availability and sizing. Finally, for those sold on the green-fingered aesthetic, they can purchase a bunch of flowers from the small florist stall at the main entrance.

There’s little in the store that’s completely revolutionary but the holistic approach to sustainability and the accompanying, softer, aesthetic will certainly grab attention.

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