After long term speculation and repeated denial from both the Canberra Centre and the company itself, it has been announced that we are in fact getting an H&M in Canberra. The fast fashion behemoth is set to open its doors later in the year. We wager that it will reside in the empty double story space left by Dick Smith and the rearrangement of other stores or in the new section above the newly refurbished beauty destination. Time will tell.
As exciting as having access to an international brand right at our very own doorstep is, and as much as we will line up to poke around on opening day (we’re only human), we have to question how successful a Canberra H&M will be and if in fact we even want one?
At the moment, part of H&M’s appeal for Canberrans’ is that we have to travel to either Sydney, Melbourne or overseas to get our fix. When you have to work a little bit harder for that dress you fell in love with on Instagram, the slightly smug, self-satisfied glow you feel inside when you finally take it home is that much greater. Plus, when you buy something from a brand that people can’t easily access at home you get the added bonus of knowing that you won’t come across fifty other girls in the exact same dress when you wear it out.
We have to wonder, when H&M becomes easily accessible and their pieces ubiquitous on our streets, will people lose interest? If the desirability and subsequent performance of our Zara, the first international mega chain to come to Canberra, is anything to go by, the answer is probably yes. Although H&M sits at a much lower price point than Zara and will appeal to a wider audience who may value a bargain more than individuality, so who knows.
Large fast fashion chains like H&M and Zara get divided up into different tiers of stores. The best performing and most desirable locations will get the best range of stock and exclusive collections, while smaller, quieter stores will get a watered down offering. Again, if our Zara, a lower tier store, is anything to go by, it is safe to assume that our Canberra H&M will not be a top tier store like those of Sydney and Melbourne.
Canberra Centre Manager Amanada Paradiso explained that: ‘the arrival of this powerhouse international brand represents another chapter in the evolution of the Canberra Centre and the CBD – testimony to the Centre’s ability to attract globally recognised brands and new to market retailers.’ And while this is true, the arrival of international brands is exciting, and it chips away at the old adage that nothing good ever comes to Canberra, the Canberra Centre continues to evolve in such a way that we have access to the same brands available in any other luxury shopping centre, in any other city.
For the Canberra Centre to offer a truly unique shopping experience, it needs to champion local independent retailers who offer something different to the chain store brands found everywhere else. Just imagine a shopping centre, full of curated, individual offerings unique to our city. That would be something that tourists would be drawn to.
Canberra is full of unique retailers who offer a tight edit of Australian and international labels, brands like Rebel Muse, Pink Ink, Momento Dezigns, Hive and Timber and Tailor. We have shops and businesses like Assemblge Project, Cardif Collective, Trove and the Local Larder (who’s attempted entree into the Canberra Centre ended in tears) who are dedicated to supporting local Canberra labels. These businesses, however, must exist on the fringe of the city or in the suburbs to be viable, as they can’t compete with the capacity of large chain stores to pay huge rents.
We are sensible to know that our utopian dream for the Canberra Centre won’t come true. Nevertheless, for now we would like to see a little more diversity in our retail landscape and a little less of H&M.