Shoppers Descend on New York's A&F, H&M

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NEW YORK -- Let the games begin. The holiday shopping season started in earnest this week for several multichannel merchants unveiling attention-grabbing strategies that in at least one case saw excited shoppers snatching nearly everything in sight.


Yesterday, Abercrombie & Fitch opened its new Fifth Avenue flagship store on the corner of 56th Street. The three-story hunters'-lodge-meets-college-party lounge was bustling shortly after opening, though it was hard to tell who was shopping and who was the sales help, thanks to all the young, well-toned twentysomethings in A&F clothing milling about. This included a bare-chested young man in an army jacket greeting customers inside the front entrance.


Once inside, two things strike shoppers immediately: The store is very dark, and the music is very loud. The after-hours atmosphere is created by dark wood paneling and louvered shutters that are kept shut. Spotlights shine attention on the clothing and blown-up images from the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.


The hunters lodge feeling is enhanced by canoes piled in one corner, a large moose's head on a wall and leather chairs placed around the store. A staircase in the middle of the store winds to the third story. Running the full height of the store and across the ceiling is a mural depicting young men in early 20th-century swimsuits climbing ropes.


Also Thursday, H&M released its limited-edition collection created by fashion designer Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul McCartney. The chain's store on Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street was one of the selected stores carrying the line, and it was even busier than Abercrombie & Fitch. In contrast, most of the other stores lining New York City's famed shopping corridor were nearly empty at midmorning.


Inside, the mood was more intense than at Abercrombie & Fitch, with frenzied shoppers grabbing handfuls of clothing off racks without looking at the size. Several people were walking around with armloads of clothing ... which explains why within two hours of opening the store, most of the stock was gone except for a few T-shirts, scarves and jewelry.


H&M did something similar last year when it released a limited-edition Karl Lagerfeld collection that also sold out quickly.


Word of when and where the Stella McCartney line would be available was disseminated via the company's Web site, hm.com, and through PR efforts.


Earlier in the week, Sears also made a grab for the spotlight when it unveiled a three-story snow globe in Times Square complete with people living inside. The event is part of a new integrated marketing campaign for the holidays called Wish Big. However, while a giant snow globe doesn't come along every day, its location inside Times Square -- where there are numerous five- and six-story billboards with flashing lights -- may have had a diminishing effect. On the day the snowy orb was revealed, there was hardly a crowd stopping to take a look.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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