Clothing retailer H&M rolled out the red carpet Thursday for more than 400 shoppers eagerly awaiting the noon opening of its new Santa Barbara location, at 829 State St., formerly occupied by Barnes & Noble.
H&M staff doled out smoothies and appetizers while a DJ blared music for customers waiting in a line that reached Macy’s at 701 State St. Some shoppers had reportedly waited since 5 a.m.
“It was very nice. I’ve seen H&Ms in Europe, and this is on the same level,” said shopper Amanda Lee, who was visiting from Maui. “I like that it has two sections for men and women. The staff is organized and friendly, and it was very well done.”
Lee said she was shopping for dressy tops that paired well with tights, and for summer dresses. But people weren’t shopping only for casual wear.
“I saw people coming out with suit jackets and clothes for work,” Lee said.
Her mother, Celine, who was born and raised in Santa Barbara, said the store will be a perfect fit for State Street.
“H&M’s prices are not outrageous; it’s perfect for the young crowd,” she said. “Older generations will head to the mom-and-pop stores while kids come to big retailers like these.”
The trendy Swedish store continues the Santa Barbara market trend toward cheaper, fashion-forward clothes.
Newcomers such as Savvy on State, Forever 21, Marshalls and H&M replaced such high-end retailers as Blue Bee, Anthropologie and This Little Piggy Wears Cotton. Savvy on State will arrive at the former Blue Bee location in August, and Marshalls will move into the old Borders spot in September.
“You can’t beat the prices,” said Casey Englehart of Ohio who was shopping for tank tops and shorts. “It caters to the young crowd, and it’s a perfect location. If they keep prices where they are, it should be great.”
Popular summer items include women’s basic tanks for $4.95, and dresses and skirts starting at $12.95. Men chose from button-down shirts starting at $9.95, basic T-shirts for $5.95 and pants starting at $19.95.
There was a consistent line of about 40 women waiting for an open fitting room to try on clothes.
“They are excited we’re here,” H&M store manager Caroline Nelson said. “It will bring more traffic and tourists who will be familiar with our brand. Everything has been very positive. It’s a great turnout and a good environment.”
Paseo Nuevo marketing director Mary Lynn Harms said the store will be a big draw for other local businesses. She was shopping for beach wear — shorts and tanks — and jewelry.
“We have something for everyone as far as the fashion, quality and price,” said Nelson, who expects swimwear, shorts and basic T-shirts to sell well. “There aren’t many low-priced and high-fashion options for men.”
H&M was founded by Erling Persson in Västerås, Sweden, in 1947, and has expanded to 40 countries and 87,000 employees.