The competition is ramping up for young, fashion-conscious female shoppers in downtown Charleston.

At a glance

H&M stands for Hennes & Mauritz. The chain 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 internationally and plans to expand throughout the southern U.S. this year. It has 268 stores in the U.S.

H&M added 40 stores last year and plans to add 40 more this year, including one in Charlotte.

Ending months of speculation, trendy Swedish retailer H&M said Thursday it will open its first South Carolina store on King Street in the fall, just up from a trendy rival, Forever 21.

H&M will set up shop at 281 King St., in the ground floor of the historic Kress building. Williams-Sonoma vacated that space this year and moved up the street.

“It’s been a long time coming,” H&M spokeswoman Nicole Christie said. “Charleston has been one of our target markets. We won’t open if we don’t have the best location on the street. There’s a really great retail mix on King Street. We will capitalize on the existing foot traffic and add to it.”

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

The nearest H&M is in Raleigh, where a second shop is planned. When the store opened there four years ago, Christie said more than 1,600 shoppers waited in line to get in.

“We have great expectations for this store,” she said of the Charleston location. “We are anticipating having a great turnout for the opening.”

A specific opening date will be announced as the building goes through a retrofit to H&M’s standards. They include the company’s own floor plan for the full-concept store, featuring all the company’s main product lines, Christie said.

“We like to keep the character and personality of the area and individualize stores a bit based on the market,” she said. “We want it to fit in the neighborhood.”

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

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,” 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.”

Ali Beischer, a Greenville native who is graduating from the College of Charleston, said she’s looking forward to the new store.

“I love H&M,” Beischer said as she pointed to the yellow handbag draped over her shoulder that she bought at H&M in Atlanta about a year ago. “They have real nice clothes for not that much money.”

Ashley Frye of Columbus, Ohio, agreed. “It’s great for college students,” said Frye, who also is about to graduate from the college. “It’s affordable.”

The art-deco Kress building is famous for being elaborately redesigned and reopened in 1931 during the Great Depression, when other shops along King Street were closing. It also was the site of a sit-in during the civil rights era when future Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt staged a protest while in high school.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or