H&M has been tight-lipped about its opening in downtown Charleston, but the Swedish retailer announced today that the store will open at noon Dec. 19.

"It is a great accomplishment to open in Charleston, a historic city known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture and hospitality," said Daniel Kulle, president of H&M in the United States.

The 21,000-square-foot store took over the Kress Building at 281 King St. and the adjacent East Shore Athletic Club gym. The Swedish retail chain specializes in affordable apparel for men, women and children.

It's the first H&M to open in South Carolina, and a second is planned for North Charleston's Tanger Outlet Center.

That 20,000-square-foot Tanger store should be open in fall 2014, according to the company.

The expansion in Charleston reflects H&M's effort to grow a stronger presence in the Southeast. The retailer has about 3,000 stores worldwide, with nearly 300 in the U.S.

"The South is a big focus for U.S. expansion, and we look forward to continued growth in 2014," Kulle said.

The first 300 shoppers in line at H&M on opening day will win T-shirts and gift certificates worth up to $300.

The store is also sponsoring a clothing recycling program. Customers who donate a bag of unwanted apparel will receive coupons for 15 percent off of one item. On opening day, clothing donors could win gift cards worth up to $100.

The store's hours will be 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Sundays.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail