That squeal you might have heard Monday was the sound of fashion-forward, cash-strapped shoppers reacting to the news that trendy Swedish retailer H&M is coming to the Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto.
The international brand, known for its stylish yet affordable women's, men's and children's clothing, is set to open in November in time for the holiday shopping season, said Janice Curtin, Vintage Faire senior manager of marketing.
"Sweet!" said 24-year-old Modesto resident Jenna Dufresne, who was shopping with friend Kelly Rash at the mall Monday afternoon. "It's cute stuff at good prices."
H&M sells "fast fashion," quickly created, reasonably priced collections based on the most recent runway trends from high-end designers.
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In 2007, pop megastar Madonna created a collection of clothing and appeared in ads for the retailer.
The store would take up the entire lower north crescent of Center Court, across from what is now Gottschalks and soon will be an expanded Forever 21.
Curtin said H&M continually tops shoppers' wish lists when asked what stores they would like to see in the mall.
"This is one of the hottest retailers out there right now," she said. "It's pretty exciting. The mall has been making a lot of changes. Retailers are seeing that this market is a strong market."
New York-based H&M spokeswoman Nicole Christie said the company carefully researches a location before deciding on a new store. She said Modesto and the Vintage Faire Mall were attractive for their demographics, consumer demand and physical location.
"We'd rather hold off than rush into anything," Christie said. "(We look at) the city, the business conditions, the customer base. There has been demand from the customers in the area, especially at Vintage Faire. The excitement and response we've received so far is making us really happy right now."
More than 1,800 stores
Established in 1947, H&M (short for Hennes & Mauritz) has more than 1,800 stores in 34 countries. The Modesto location would be its 12th in Northern California and second in the Central Valley. Its other valley store is in Roseville.
Mall shoppers Jessica Coronado and Marissa Gonzales, both 18-year-old Patterson residents, said they've traveled to Pleasanton and San Francisco to shop at H&M. They were excited about the new store and said it will make them come to the mall even more than their current once- or twice-a-week visit.
"I think it brings a fresh new style to (Modesto)," Coronado said. "They always have something different and unique."
But women aren't the only ones looking forward to shopping the latest off-the-runway styles.
"A lot of my friends go to San Francisco to shop there," said 21-year-old Modesto resident Ronnie VanHagen, who works at No Fear in the mall. "Especially in our economy, you can't afford $60 shirts. So they'll do a lot of business."
Christie said the Modesto location will be a full-concept store, carrying merchandise for children, teens, young men and women, and adults, plus maternity wear and accessories. She said the store will hire about 50 employees.
The 20,000-square-foot site will go into the space previously occupied by Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Limited Too and a portion of Wet Seal.
Wet Seal already has moved, and the Foot Locker stores are in the process of moving. Limited Too, a tween-focused offshoot of women's clothing retailer The Limited, will close.
The H&M addition will be one of the centerpieces of a revitalized Center Court, which will be anchored by Forever 21's takeover of the 150,000-square-foot Gottschalks space in August.
H&M and Forever 21 attract the desirable early 20s to mid-30s demographic with fast, cheap, fashionable offerings, Curtin said.
"It's exciting to be a part of the reinvention of the department store model," she said.
In 2005, lines in San Francisco snaked around the block the night before the grand opening of H&M's 35,000-square-foot Northern California flagship store on Powell Street.
Since then San Francisco has added three H&M locations with a half-dozen others around the Bay Area.
Opening treated like a party
Christie said Central Valley H&M fans can expect the same sort of grand opening extravaganza but said further details wouldn't be released until closer to the actual date.
"We treat each opening as a party," she said. "We're hearing such a great buzz about us coming. We try to welcome everyone and treat everyone special."
Besides Madonna, the retailer has worked with designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney and has an upcoming collaboration with luxury shoe seller Jimmy Choo.
News that the popular retailer is coming to Modesto shocked some.
"I would not expect it here," said shopper Kelly Rash, leaving the mall with a Forever 21 bag. "It's kind of trendy, for the area. I'll definitely go there."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2284.