Carrie Rengers

Proof that H&M is coming – and Abercrombie & Fitch is going

Abercrombie & Fitch is closing at Towne East Square. Next week is the store’s last week in business in Wichita.
Abercrombie & Fitch is closing at Towne East Square. Next week is the store’s last week in business in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle

We never doubted it, but just in case you did, here’s proof that H&M is coming to Towne East Square.

The Swedish retailer applied for an almost $1 million building permit, which has been approved and is waiting to be executed, to build a store at the mall.

Towne East management and H&M still aren’t confirming that it’s happening.

According to a plan review application on file with the city, there are going to be quite a few changes before the arrival of the retailer, which sells clothing and accessories for women, men and children. It’s especially geared toward teenagers and other younger people.

H&M is going to locate on the second floor of the mall just outside Dillard’s.

The sizable store is displacing Spencer’s, which is moving to another part of the mall.

The biggest news with the shuffling of stores is that Abercrombie & Fitch is closing.

A spokeswoman for the chain’s parent company confirms that’s the case but doesn’t have a closing date. That’s likely going to be next week, but there are no closing sales underway, nor does it look like there will be any beyond a small clearance area.

The spokeswoman says the move is part of the company’s strategy of closing stores to focus on other parts of its business.

The store’s parent company also owns Hollister, which is next to the Abercrombie & Fitch at Towne East. That store is going to remain open. It sounds like there are some changes coming, including possible remodeling later this year.

Abercrombie and Hollister both opened at Towne East in 2002.

In conjunction with H&M’s arrival, it appears a set of the mall’s stairs to the first floor will be going away. There’s a large area between Abercrombie & Fitch and Spencer’s that’s mostly empty except for the stairs and some seating. According to documents at the city, that space will become part of H&M.

The ripple effect goes further still.

Spencer’s move is forcing Specs Eyewear to new space, though Specs co-owner Jason Bell sees a silver lining with having to leave its current space.

Bell says mall management didn’t name H&M but did say there’s going to be a new tenant that necessitates that Spencer’s moves.

“What we were told is that the only spot in the whole entire mall that works for Spencer’s is our … location,” he says of the Specs site across from Old Navy.

Specs will close there on April 2 so Spencer’s can begin work on its space.

The eyewear chain is going to reopen in about two weeks a couple of doors to the south of Hollister. Victoria’s Secret and its Pink concept are immediately south of where Specs is moving.

“It’s significantly bigger than our old store,” Bell says of the 2,000-square-foot new space. “It’ll feel a lot less claustrophobic inside the store.”

Specs opened in Towne East in 2002 as a kiosk. It moved to its present 1,200-square-foot site in 2005.

However, Bell says, “This will be the first time that we’ve really started from scratch at Towne East … and made a store our own.”

He says he’s “excited about finally having a store at Towne East that … has that Specs look.”

A final piece of the second-floor shuffle involves Kitchen Connection, a store between Hollister and Specs.

“We’re literally only moving 8 feet to the left,” says Randy Sklenar, vice president of the Ohio-based chain.

“That’s about all the details that we actually have.”

It sounds like there may be a bit of space left over from what Specs needed. Regardless of the reasoning, Kitchen Connection will close its existing space on April 7 and reopen by the first week of July.

“This has been a very good store for us,” Sklenar says.

He says H&M will be a great neighbor.

“Our take on it (is) that’s a great draw for the center.”

Nearby, there’s also a major retailer that is preparing for a significant renovation.

Look for details on it along with an H&M confirmation soon.

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers