After months of speculation, trendy Swedish retailer H&M confirmed today exclusively with The Post and Courier it will open its first South Carolina store in downtown Charleston this fall.

H&M will set up shop at 281 King St. in the Kress building Williams-Sonoma vacated earlier this year after it moved up King Street to the former Sportsman’s Shop.

The 18,300-square-foot store will include apparel for women, men and children with separate areas featuring lingerie, maternity, sports apparel and accessories.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said H&M spokeswoman Nicole Christie. “Charleston has been one of our target markets. We won’t open if we don’t have the best location on the street.”

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley hailed the shop’s arrival as a sign of the retail viability of the downtown area.

“It’s a wonderful affirmation of the success of King Street and its desirability as a retail location,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. “H&M is an international company that goes to the best retail locations, and King Street is one of the 10 best streets in the country for retail.”

A shop its size generally hires between 30 and 50 employees, Christie said.

She couldn’t say when construction will begin to retrofit the building, but she added that H&M has its own floor plan and the King Street store is a full concept store featuring all lines. A more concrete opening date will be announced later this year, she said.

H&M stands for Hennes & Mauritz and was founded in Sweden in 1947. It also owns brands that include Cheap Monday, & Other Stories, COS, Monki, Weekday and H&M Home. H&M has about 2,800 stores in 49 markets and plans to expand greatly throughout the South this year. It has 268 stores in the U.S.

Read more in tomorrow’s editions of The Post and Courier.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or