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Swedish clothing retailer H&M opens at Caesars

This time they meant it.

H&M had scheduled to open its Forum Shops at Caesars location, the largest in the 2,000-store international chain, the week before Thanksgiving, giving it time to get operations running smoothly for the Black Friday shopping binge. It even advertised the date on bus wraps and sent out invitations for a pre-opening soiree.

Then, the Swedish clothing retailer suddenly put off the opening for three weeks, missing about half of the Christmas shopping season.

"The reason for the delay was that we wanted to make sure the essentials were right," said spokesman Nicole Christie, without specifying what had gone off course. "We wouldn't open without having everything ready."

Although workers were scurrying Friday afternoon to put on the finishing touches, H&M was finally ready to let the shopping public in this morning for its brand of apparel and shoes discounting. H&M has two shops on Las Vegas Boulevard, but the Forum Shops location dwarfs both of them combined. At 60,000 square feet, it nearly doubles the size of the store on New York's Fifth Avenue, the previous holder of the "largest" title.

"Just about every retailer is already here, so I can't say it does anything for Las Vegas per se," said Michael Kammerling, senior vice president of retail at the commercial real estate brokerage Grubb & Ellis. "I think they are probably well-known for their inexpensive merchandise, so they could appeal to a broader range of customers for the Forum Shops."

In addition, he noted, it is one of the few stores in the recent past that has opened at one of the casino-based malls on the Strip that isn't attempting to chase the luxury market.

Just inside the entrance, for example, was a rack of gold metallic party dresses priced at $34.99, about one-tenth the price of something like it would run for a designer label with different materials.

The store has been in the works for about two years, since toy retailer FAO Schwarz decided it would not renew its lease, said Christie. In February, FAO Schwarz rolled out the wooden horse that had filled the 50-foot-high entry way for more than a decade and left Las Vegas.

H&M kept the atrium but has hung gold mirrored disco balls and mannequins from the ceiling. For the opening, company designers came up with their own ideas for display pieces, such as stitching together three of the gold party dresses into a floor-length one.

"We are in Las Vegas, a city that has a reputation as a place to party, and we want to show that here," said Christie. "We want to give the customer a feeling of drama and high fashion," although she recoils at the description of cheap chic.

H&M, known by the corporate name H&M Hennes & Mauritz, has stepped up its expansion pace during the recession and has 196 stores in the United States as of Aug. 31. The company started a decade ago in New York. At $918 million in sales during the nine months through Aug. 31, the United States ranks as the company's third-largest market after Germany and France.

Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at
toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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