About 1,100 attend H&M grand opening at Fresno's River Park

The Fresno BeeMay 20, 2014 

About 1,100 people flocked to the grand opening of H&M Thursday, the River Park clothing store that replaced Borders bookstore.

Swedish retailer H&M is wildly popular among shoppers in their teens and 20s, and the Fresno store has been highly anticipated for months. It's known for its low prices and ability to get runway looks on store racks quickly.

The 40 employees put on a high-energy grand opening for shoppers, the earliest of whom had been waiting since 6 a.m. for the noon opening. Shoppers were greeted by H&M workers who cheered, danced and rapped about the store.

The 25,000-square-foot store sells clothing for women, men and children from infant to 14 years old. The store has one rack of plus-clothing up to size 22, along with a small maternity section dubbed "H&M Mama." It also sells accessories and lingerie.

After Borders closed in 2011, River Park management directed its shoppers to an online survey that asked what they wanted to see in that spot.

H&M was the No. 1 response.

It's the only H&M between Modesto and Santa Barbara, and a brand that local shoppers would seek out elsewhere.

"I would make it a point to go to H&M when I went out of town," said 19-year-old Macy Elliott of Clovis. "This is a great store."

Many shoppers in line said the clothing was similar to Forever 21 or Love Culture, both at Fashion Fair mall. But, they said, H&M has clothing that's more work appropriate and sometimes less expensive.

Thursday the store had "super skinny jeans with super low" waists for $19.95 and orange-and-white striped men's dress shirts for $29.95. Kids' T-shirts started at $4.95, and maxi dresses on sale for opening day cost $7.

Katelynn Lewallen, 19, of Fresno, and a friend slept in her car at River Park to be the first in line. The shopping center didn't allow people to camp out in line overnight, but Lewallen was the first in line at 6 a.m.

She said she loves the store, but "it's not necessarily the clothes" that made her go to great lengths to be first in line. It was the deals.

The first 100 customers in line got a gift card for between $10 to $300. Shoppers who brought bags of clothing to donate to the company's recycling program received 15% off their purchases that day only.

"That's what makes it worth it when you're young and don't have a job," Lewallen said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her Retail & Restaurants blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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