H&M opens its doors to South Africa.

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Yesterday I attended the store opening of one of the world’s most famous clothing shopping retailer store—H&M, in Sandton City, Johannesburg. In the weeks leading up to the store’s opening, there was a huge buzz about it on various social media sites. On Facebook and Twitter all anyone and everyone could talk about was the store’s opening in Johannesburg. And if the Cape Town launch (which took place a few weeks before the Johannesburg store opening) was anything to go by, then we were sure to experience an epic h&m red carpet welcome!

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H&M, also known as Hennes & Mauritz is a Swedish retail-clothing company, known for its fashion forward clothing for men, women, teenagers and children. The first store was opened in Sweden in 1947, with the aim of providing attractive clothes at an affordable rate. Since 1947, H&M has opened over 3700 stores, in 61 countries, spanning across all five continents. It remains one of the world’s leading clothing retailers and is considered more affordable than other global brands such as Zara, Top Shop, Mango or even the Australian brand Forever New.

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Eager to discover the H&M experience in South Africa, I went along with a good friend of mine to Sandton City. The store officially opened its doors at 11am, but sadly we only got there a little before 2pm, very late, considering the lengthy and arduous process we had to undergo in order to get into the store. After arriving we soon discovered that all H&M customers were required to obtain wrist bands at the roof top of the Sandton city mall and then proceed to a waiting area where they were then given h&m gifts bags containing- a note pad, a bottle of water and some chocolate. Customers were then asked to proceed downstairs to the mall’s upper floor and join the long and windy queue that eventually led to the lower mall and the red carpet where the h&m store was located. The entire process took about an hour, from roof top to the doors of the H&M store. Because we had arrived considerably late, we found out that they had run out of gift bags which were given to the first 2000 customers waiting in line. Regardless we enjoyed the H&M buzz as we waited in line to enter the store.

Fast-forward to an hour later (after much waiting, standing, cheering and even dancing by some h&m staff), we were finally inside! The store was huge complete with bright lights and music sounds sipping in from a DJ booth located right outside the store. As to be expected, there were scores of people in the store, voraciously searching through clothing racks and rails. The H&M staff were friendly and helpful but also abnormally busy because they were constantly in motion, and moving in all directions of the store to ensure that customers were satisfied. The H&M team definitely had their work cut out for them in terms crowd control because there were over 5000 people waiting to get a glimpse of what H&M had to offer. I was also impressed to see that the store had the newly launched Balmain brand, which was unveiled in the UK and the United States a few days prior. South Africa was definitely not getting left behind in the world of h&m fashion, I thought to myself…

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At the end of our three hour H&M experience (including the one hour spent on the queue waiting to get into the shop), l left the store feeling somewhat elated and satisfied (but extremely famished). It was well worth the wait. H&M was worth the hype. Not because their clothes were out of this world or anything but because the brand provided edgy and stylish clothes for fashion divas on a budget.

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