Thoughts about Fashion on the High Street.
Having worked in the Fashion industry for over a decade, and 'comp shopping' having been a regular fixture to my job role, paired with access to numerous £1 sample sales and free clothes, actively shopping for myself became pretty much non-existent as I didn't gain any sense of enjoyment out of it.
I found myself turning to online-shopping more and more as it saved the hassle of being out when I found myself very time-poor as a designer in the industry and as I was already familiar with what the quality was like in most of the UK high street shops (Topshop, H&M, New Look etc), there was no reason for me to visit their actual brick & mortar stores.
The purpose of this post is that I was at Westfield White City doing a 'comp shop report' for one of my clients and I really couldn't believe it but retail really hasn't changed in the last 10 years, further highlighting all the 'Retail is Dead' headlines I have been reading about recently. I started to remember why I bought everything online, if not at all!
I found myself enjoying the 'home' stores so much more such as Zara Home and H&M home... but that could just be an age thing.
One store that really did surprise me though was Urban Revivo. I came across this brand last year when I was in China on a business trip and it had some really lovely pieces. They were very much emulating the Zara aesthetic but at least I knew that anything I bought from there would have less chance of being spotted on someone else! Their website is non-transactional (at the time of writing this article) and feels more like a landing page but their Instagram account is inspiring and not the usual aesthetic of most 'commercial' fashion brands.
Anyway, I had forgotten about them until I saw their shop in Westfield. I was pleasantly surprised how refreshing it was! Lights weren't too bright, music wasn't too loud and overall, it felt really premium but without that being reflected onto the price tags. The other thing I would never have known had it not been right in front of me was how nice it was to have rails that were at eye level and having accessories merchandised lower down. There was only one person on the shop floor (although it wasn't busy at all!) and she was delightful!!
This experience really does show (to me) that for shops to survive being on the High Street and not forced to trade purely online, a major revamp is required and most importantly, customer service.
This article I read from Drapers back in April, reviewing a handful of shops at Watford's Intu centre (you may need to sign up/in to read it) highlights the importance of customer service as it formulates the first impressions AND the positive lasting impressions.
I never thought I cared about customer service because I usually know what I want to buy, but when you go from browsing a shop with staff that don't have time for you (Zara, although it's never hindered them) to John Lewis where you would never leave without seeing a dozen or so faces smiling back at you...it really does make a difference!