No one likes waiting in slow lines—and certainly not the shoppers who turn out for fast fashion. That’s why H&M’s flagship store on Times Square, set to open at 12:01 p.m. on Thursday, is launching a new “try and buy” option that lets customers pay for items from inside the dressing room.
To accommodate such transactions, H&M (HMB:SS) will have cash registers and sales advisers stationed in the fitting area. “Once the garments are paid for, we can arrange for [customers] to wear them out of the store, if they request to do so,” Nicole Christie, a spokeswoman for the Swedish retailer, explained in an e-mail.
Dressing-room checkouts are unusual for chain stores, according to Jamie Merriman, a research analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “I’ve only seen it in [small, independent] higher-end stores,” she said in an e-mail. Such services generally involve a salesperson bringing a credit card machine directly to the shopper. “It usually is more labor intensive in the store.”
H&M declined to comment on whether the new system will require extra theft-prevention measures, but Merriman says dressing-room checkouts shouldn’t pose a problem: “Products will still need to have security tags removed, as they do normally at the point of sales.”
The dressing-room checkout debut is just one feature intended to set apart H&M’s new “high tech” store, which sprawls across 42,000 square feet and houses 44 fitting rooms, 24 cash registers, and an array of fluorescent lights and geometric metal decor for what H&M spokeswoman Jennifer Ward describes as a “futuristic, tech-savvy store design.” She adds in an e-mail: “The mezzanine will consist of a Social Media Lounge, which will include seating, free Wi-Fi, integrated iPads, headphones with music, mobile fitting rooms, and a photo studio.”
There will also be “interactive mannequins” with screens attached to their foreheads that play videos or flash photos and special deal alerts. Meanwhile, shoppers will be invited to walk a “virtual runway” and have their catwalk performances projected on the store’s external LED screens for the throngs of tourists and office workers passing through Times Square. Appropriately, Lady Gaga will be making an appearance on opening day, in part to promote her new album, ARTPOP, which H&M will carry at 175 stores worldwide.
According to Women’s Wear Daily, H&M’s new location will need to garner serious sales numbers to make the economics work. Rents in the area go for as much as $2,500 per square foot, making Time Square some of the priciest real estate in New York City.
H&M is, of course, counting on high volume sales. One can only hope that the new fitting-room checkout stations will mitigate the time shoppers spend waiting and waiting in line.