Swedish clothing retailer H&M will be the new St. Clair Square tenant that Fairview Heights and mall officials have been hinting about for months.
The company, officially Hennes and Mauritz Inc., announced its plans in a press release Wednesday.
"Measuring approximately 20,000 square feet, the new location at St. Clair Square is set to open in summer of 2019," it stated. "H&M has experienced a warm welcome from customers and fans in Illinois and is happy to continue to expand its store and employee count in the state."
The new location will be a "one-stop shopping destination" for the whole family, with clothing for women, men and teens and the H&M Kids collection for newborns to 14-year-olds, according to the press release. There also will be separate "store-within-a-store" sections for accessories.
Paul Ellis, Fairview Heights economic development director, described the new H&M location as an "anchor department store" at the mall.
"This is a very good retailer," he said. "They're a Swedish company, and they've been very successful in the U.S. They're in many of the major malls across the country."
St. Clair Square general manager Michael Hagen could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.
H&M has stores in St. Louis Galleria and West County Center in Des Peres, Missouri. In January, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the company was expanding in St. Louis with a new 21,000-square-foot store at Mid Rivers Mall and a bigger store at West County.
"H&M prides itself on its support of local economies by adding jobs with each new location," according to Wednesday's press release. "As a continuously expanding brand, H&M constantly searches for new talent to grow within the company. With the opening of the St. Clair Square location, H&M is proud to add employees to the current, ever-expanding total of approximately 16,000 U.S. employees."
Metro-east residents first heard that St. Clair Square was getting a major new tenant in March, when Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky announced it at a Metro-East Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting. But he wasn't ready to reveal the name.
Kupsky acknowledged that people in the community had been concerned about empty mall spaces, but he called some of them "planned vacancies" that were part of a master plan.
"They are moving tenants around to make space for one very large tenant that will be located inside of the mall, and that will happen later this year," he told the crowd.
H&M carries the brands H&M and H&M Home, COS, & Other Stories, Monki, Weekday Cheap Monday and ARKET, according to its website.
"Sustainability is an integral part of H&M," the press release stated. "The brand is growing and making significant long-term investments for sustainable development. In 2013, H&M launched Garment Collecting, an in-store clothing recycling project, and was the first global fashion company to implement such a program. In 2017 alone, H&M U.S. diverted over 2.5 million (pounds) of unwanted textiles from landfills."
H&M opened its first U.S. store 17 years ago. It now has 525 locations across the country. Ellis described the company's decision to expand into Fairview Heights "great news."
"Retail is always evolving," he said. "And anything you can do to refresh it is good."