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Joining the queue at H&M

I just can’t help talking about the concept of market disruption! Yesterday, Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo saw doors around the world opening simultaneously on her first (and probably last) mass-market, high street collection for H&M.

As a deal-hunting, clothes-loving neophile myself, I stood outside H&M’s Regent Street store in London at the crack of dawn in the freezing cold, with the queue snaking round the corner into Great Marlborough Street. Queuing had begun just after midnight, apparently, and, by 8 o’clock hundreds of people were waiting for the store to open.

I found myself in a happy group of fashionistas, including a high-powered (female) chairman of a top-end retailer, an art dealer, a lawyer and a vibrant band of young trend-setters. We had in common a love of fashion and a loathing of cold weather (thank goodness H&M staff passed around Japanese-made hand-warmers to ward off frostbite). We chatted amongst ourselves and also spoke on our mobile phones to friends in different parts of the world for updates and comparisons (my network encompassed friends and relatives in Paris, Brussels, Manchester and Zurich).

Once admitted into the store, the assembled throng went about their purchases in a remarkable state of peace and calm. Despite the credit crunch, the most expensive item in the collection (a frilled and ruched wool, silk and lace dress-coat, priced at £199.99) sold out within the first 20 minutes. By lunchtime many other pieces had also sold out and staff expected very few items to remain on the shelves today.

By successfully fusing avant-garde Japanese style with H&M’s true high street presence (1,600 stores in 32 countries), the Comme des Gar篮s collaboration is a classic example of market disruption - a strategy that I predict will increasingly separate winners from losers in 2008 and beyond.

Let me know (moira@thembsgroup.co.uk) how you plan to disrupt the market in the coming months, not only to survive but also to do well and beat the gloom.

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