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Store openings draw huge crowds at Fashion Place

Published: Friday, Nov. 11 2011 4:41 p.m. MST

Customers wait in line to enter H&M on its opening day at Fashion Place in Murray on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

MURRAY — Judging from the ridiculously long line that snaked around the newly completed addition on the west side of the Fashion Place mall, you would think that you couldn't buy affordably priced, stylish clothing at any one of numerous other stores in the shopping center.

But apparently, none of those retailers are H&M.

The Swedish clothing company opened its newest store Friday, along with Northbrook, Ill.-based housewares and furniture retailer Crate & Barrel, The Loft, The North Face and Chico — drawing enormous crowds to the mid-valley mall. More than 1,000 people stood in line for hours to be among the first to rush the doors of the 231st Hennes & Mauritz location in the U.S.

Brent Sorensen, of Lehi, was the first man inside.

Sorensen and his girlfriend, Brianna Richards, arrived at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and slept in their car overnight — just to be at the head of the line.

For his efforts, Sorensen was rewarded with a $300 gift card, which he promptly used to purchase as much new stuff as he could.

"I made out alright," Sorensen said. "Ninety percent of my wardrobe is H&M. They make their clothes affordable for the average consumer … so you can look fashionable at an affordable price."

Judging by the enthusiasm of the throngs of people waiting to join the shopping frenzy, he was definitely not alone in his assessment.

The grand opening marked the completion of a four-year, nearly 100,000-square-foot expansion of the state's highest grossing retail center. While owner General Growth Properties declined to give specific details about the cost of the overall renovation and expansion, estimates range in the tens of millions of dollars.

"We've revamped the entire interior of the center, we've added a new wing and we've added new shops on the outside," said senior general manager Celeste Dorris. Over the redevelopment period, she said the mall has added about 30 new stores and increased its square footage by 25 percent.

Along with the mixed-use City Creek Center project in downtown Salt Lake City, the Fashion Place expansion was among the largest retail developments in the area over the past few years. Other major projects include Station Park in Farmington and the 220,000-square-foot Scheel's project in Sandy.

Despite the economic challenges faced in many other sectors, the retail real estate market along the Wasatch Front is doing quite well, Dorris explained.

Fashion Place currently has about 150 tenants, including retail and restaurants, and could even consider expanding in a year or two if the current economic momentum continues, she said.

"Salt Lake City is a growing market and we've got a strong (retail) economy," Dorris said. "Even with the (economic) difficulties we've seen lately, retail has been able to weather that particular storm well."

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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