Shelina Mitchell had arrived with friends at Peachtree Mall around 6 a.m. Thursday in anticipation of the grand opening of the new H&M clothing store six hours later.
With five minutes before the ceremonial cutting of a red ribbon, bass-infused pop and reggae music was pumping out of the speakers. H&M staffers were doing line dances in circles and throughout the crowd of about 300 that had gathered by that time. An energetic festival appeared to be hitting full crescendo in the mall’s center court.
And, best of all, Mitchell, 18, of Fort Hood, Texas, had scored one of the “fashion pass” giveaways toward $200 in store merchandise. Her friend Zhatiana Milner, 19, of Columbus, and Aliya Mickens, 18, of Brooklyn, N.Y., had received $100 and $300 passes, respectively.
“I’m going to spend it all,” said Mitchell, who has shopped at H&M stores in Philadelphia and in Virgina. “I like the style of their clothes. It’s the style that I wear.”
It was a signature moment for H&M, a Swedish retailer with a passionate following that has encouraged its international expansion, leading to the 21,217-square-foot store at Peachtree Mall.
“They’re probably the hottest store to get right now, literally in the world,” said Angela Cleveland Jacks, the marketing manager for Peachtree Mall and Riverchase Galleria in Birmingham, Ala., a nearly 1.6 million-square-foot center about twice the size of the Columbus mall, but to the chagrin of Cleveland Jacks, without an H&M.
“They’re just a hot retailer,” she said. “They’re trendy clothes. They’re good prices. They’re quality merchandise. It’s just a good mix and they know how to open a store. Their presentation, their merchandising, the way they present it, is top notch.”
The debut of H&M is perhaps the biggest piece of the reshuffling and revamping of Peachtree Mall. It’s a process that began last fall and has seen several tenants relocate, some depart, and some new brands, including clothing store Forever 21, open their doors. Another fashion tenant, shoe store Encore, should be in place by November.
“It’s been a great year,” said Peachtree’s general manager Chris McCoy. “We have a couple of other tenants we plan to open this year as well. But this is huge for Columbus and the support we’re seeing for H&M and all of our tenants.”
A couple of pieces of the Peachtree Mall pie remaining include the former Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurant, an outparcel building that has been vacant for some time, and the former Parisian department store space.
McCoy said a Mexican restaurant is headed for the Carino’s building, although he couldn’t name them at this point. The renovation of the structure will include adding an outdoor patio, he said, with customers likely setting down for lunch and dinner by November.
Then there’s the Parisian vacancy in the front area of the mall facing Manchester Expressway. Peachtree’s owner, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, is negotiating to purchase the 86,700-square-foot store space — vacant since 2006 — from department store retailer Dillard’s, already an anchor at the center.
“We’re still working on getting that under our ownership,” said McCoy, who said it is “very possible” an acquisition could occur before the end of this year. “We think it’s obviously a good opportunity for us, a good opportunity for Columbus. So we’re working hard on it.”