The 17,000-square-foot store is part of a multimillion-dollar renovation at the shopping center. Doors opened at noon, but incentives helped bring the crowd out earlier. The first 100 shoppers received H&M T-shirts and discount offers only good for Thursday.
Employees from other H&M locations helped celebrate the launch by cheering and dancing alongside a DJ. Other White Oaks stores took advantage of the customer boost, and an employee from Katie's Kof-fee took orders for those lined up at H&M, which has men's, women's and children's clothing.
Springfield's Ralphael Austin joined his wife, Bernice Austin, at 9 a.m. on her 30th birthday. Bernice works at the Springfield location. The couple already were fans of the store's modern basic pieces and trendy collections, and Ralphael, 29, said they're thrilled to have a location in their own city.
Springfield's Molly Smith, 25, arrived at the mall at 9:30 a.m. She came early for the discounts.
She's shopped at the H&M store in Chesterfield, Mo., and she introduced her boyfriend, Nick Jones, 28, to the company. He joined her Thursday along with a friend, Jessie Barnes, 24.
"I pretty much enjoy any store that has clothes," Barnes said.
Boost for Springfield
Customers said they think the new store will bring more revenue to Springfield.
"I hope we can support it," said Leigh Bennett, 54, of Springfield. "We need to bring the people from surrounding towns here.
"I think the whole mall is a big improvement."
Bennett previously shopped at H&Ms in St. Louis and Chicago and said the retailer's stores have a fun atmosphere and nice selection.
"I think it's quality clothing and good prices," she said.
Hayley Lane, 18, of Loami agreed. She had the day off from Lincoln Land Community College and headed to H&M early with her mother.
"I'm really excited. I was kind of surprised (they opened in Springfield)," Lane said.
She happened to be in Denver when an H&M store opened there and has shopped at the branch in St. Louis. Her mother, Lisa Lane, received a $200 discount from the store to spend on Thursday.
Jermar Tyler, 32, fell in love with H&M during his visits to New York City. News that Springfield planned to bring the chain into town left Tyler "extremely excited," he said.
He described the cut and fit of the clothing as "European" and more formfitting.
While standing in line, Tyler met Krista Cole, 28. Cole recently moved to Chatham after having lived in Phoenix. She's originally from Greenville.
"It kind of makes me feel like I'm living in a big city again," she said about the H&M opening. "They have the latest fashions."
She described the clothes as reasonably priced and hip.
Only one in central Illinois
Not everyone in line had shopped at an H&M before. Mary Moore, who is retired, walks at White Oaks Mall six times per week. When she went there Thursday for her normal exercise, a security guard steered her toward the new store. She decided to wait in line for the coupons, hoping to score some Christmas gifts for her family.
Springfield's shoppers had company throughout the country Thursday, as the company opened four other U.S. locations. H&M has a total of 12 stores in Illinois. Most are in the northeastern part of the state, however, and there are no other H&Ms in central Illinois.
"We think there's a lot of potential in central Illinois," said Nicole Christie, spokeswoman for H&M U.S. "We find that these location markets, they're not major metropolitan cities. But there's so much potential."
Erling Persson opened the first H&M in Vasteras, Sweden in 1947. He had visited New York City after World War II, admired the city's stores and returned home with the goal of opening his own. H&M launched its first American store, in New York City, in 2000.
Everything is designed within the company, Christie said, and H&M uses sustainable garments. The company is the largest user of organic cotton in the world, Christie said, and the store uses recycled polyester and organic wool.
While H&M provided one of the loudest store openings, it's not the mall's only new store.
Working to revamp its image, White Oaks is ushering in a number of new businesses. Bare Minerals, a makeup store, opens its doors at 10 a.m. today. The store will provide gifts with purchases and host a raffle.
Francesca's Collections opened in June, White House Black Market opened in September, and Loft opened in October. In addition, appliance retailer H.H. Gregg opened in August, and fine tea store Teavana also recently found a home at White Oaks.
"We're increasing the selection and making it more interesting," said Christine Lahmann, director of marketing and business development for the mall. "We've been working really hard to bring in mid-range to high-end selection."