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H&M's New Store Fails to Live Up to Its High-Tech Promises

In which we visit H&M's new Times Square flagship to see if all those techy new features really work.
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H&M did a pretty big media push last week, both for the debut of its collaboration with Isabel Marant as well as the Lady Gaga-hosted opening of its gigantic new Times Square flagship.

The press release announcing the store's opening made much of the innovative retail technology that would feature heavily throughout the new, "epic" store. It promised a runway where shoppers could show off the clothes they were trying on, accompanied by tunes from a live, in-store DJ. Video of runway walks would then be projected onto huge LED screens situated outside the store, the release said. It also described devices that would allow shoppers to check out inside fitting rooms, interactive mannequins and more. All seemed to be in working order on opening night, but after that? Not so much.

The blog Fashion and Mash tipped us off to the fact that H&M Times Square had fallen short of its high-tech promises, so we ventured uptown to see for ourselves.

The store is huge, nice-looking and surprisingly well-organized (granted it was 11 a.m. on a Wednesday). There were lots of cool, flashy lights that gave the store a futuristic, festive vibe. In terms of technological innovation, the store definitely felt like it was of the present, but my experience did not feel all that different than that of shopping in any other H&M store (and shop I did -- picked up some Isabel Marant for H&M, of which there was still a small amount).

The LED screens I saw either displayed a still image from the retailer's holiday campaign or blurry animated graphics. There was no obvious way to check out in the dressing rooms, although there were a few iPads near the entrance, where you could browse and sign up to become some sort of member of something.

The interactive mannequins were nowhere to be found. While Fashion and Mash reported seeing mannequins with blank LED screens, those LED screens appeared to have been entirely removed by the time I got there.

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The "runway," which was a bit difficult to find, did seem to be in working order, although the touchscreen console you use to sign up for it did have an error message (as Fashion and Mash experienced) and there was no DJ in sight. A cashier located next to the runway said that it does work and that people had been using it earlier, but that she didn't know "where the guy is."

Lo and behold, after exiting the store we saw shoppers walking the runway on the gigantic outdoor screens, though it is unknown when those videos were actually shot.

The situation is reminiscent of Prada's SoHo store opening back in 2001. The brand promised and spent millions on a slew of technology innovations including an inventory system that involved handheld PDAs and touchscreens in dressing rooms, most of which either ended up malfunctioning or just wasn't used, according to CNN. Regardless, we still think the Rem Koolhaas-designed space is pretty awesome.

Similarly, H&M's new location is pretty cool and has some real cute stuff in right now. Tech-wise, it was fine, but we were not quite as impressed as it seemed like we were supposed to be.

Update: A rep for H&M gave us the following statement:

All systems are working but some areas are shut down for maintenance periodically due to the popularity of the technology.