Tag Archives: Browsing Time

Browsing Time: FOREVER 21

17 Jul

With adverts for the first Forever 21 store in London currently adorning buses and Tube platforms, and the eagerly awaited opening in under a fortnight, I thought I’d take a look at the “phenomenon” (their word, not mine!) that is F-21.

The brand’s first European store opening last November in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre.  With a whopping 53,000 sq ft spread across 3 floors, the store dominates the shopping centre. And with plans for equally huge stores set for Lakeside, Bluewater and Stratford already in place before the Oxford St store has served a single customer, this brand is clearly full of confidence in its British market.  But ask a handful of fashion lovers if they’ve heard of Forever 21 and it is likely only the Transatlantic holidaymakers will be familiar with it.

The core appeal of the brand is that it’s cheap (on a parr with Primark) and there is a LOT to choose from.  Each design is delivered only once, so there are no ‘bestsellers’, only small amounts of thousands of different lines.  It is a time-consuming shopping experience, as there are rails and rails to rummage through, though you may be rewarded with some hidden gems.  Plus the added appeal of lines being so limited means you are less likely to bump into 3 other women wearing the same dress as you on the way to the pub as if you’d bought it in Primark.

The value price-point is not reflected in the design of the store though, with grandiose stucco ceilings, chandeliers and sequins galore.  I took these photos at the Birmingham store last week:

In comparison to the interiors, the windows are a real let-down. Totally bland:

With a much more modestly sized unit on Oxford St, but a real need to impress the fickle fashionistas of the Capital, I’m looking forward to seeing what F-21’s got up its sleeve.  The phenomenon hits on 27th July, will you be there?

Further Reading:

The Gospel According to Forever 21 – the Guardian

Fashion News – Retail Week


Browsing Time: H&M

15 Jul

In the last year or so, H&M’s Visuals have got onto my radar, big time.

I imagine they have a limited budget for Display, but instead of either not bothering to put any creativity into presenting their stores or simply looking really cheap like some other retailers at a similar price-point *cough* New Look *cough*, they seem to have struck a balance between simplicity and creativity that I believe gives the stores a really sophisticated appeal.

I rarely shop at H&M, and being taken in the Oxford Street East store (the one that leads with Womenswear as opposed to the one on Oxford Circus that leads with ‘Young Trend’) last year on a Comp. Shop, I was thrilled by how fantastic the store looked.

Clean and minimal but with splashes of personality, I think this is a great interior.

Personally, I love the way the use of  abstract mannequins all with the same styled wig.  Although not a completely original idea (Mulberry did the same thing recently with ginger wigs) is striking and an easy way of freshening up the mood. Particularly love the Gaga-esque blunt blonde fringe.

The use of props is always carefully considered and interesting. So much white errs on being bare, but for a value brand I think a clean look gives the right message.

I’m looking forward to seeing what H&M does next!

Browsing Time: ZARA

18 Jun

I was in a group interview situation this week (more about that another day!) with about 20 other high street VMs from London and a discussion was initiated about who we thought provides the leading Visuals on the high street… I was a little surprised to hear most of them say Zara. Windows? Of course they’re everyone’s favourite. But in-store, really? Clearly I need to be educated in the phenomenon of Zara.

Above are some examples of the Oxford St Zaras’ windows so far this year. All are fun, colourful, attention grabbing: the sort of windows high street brands should be creating. It frustrates me slightly that the windows, so quirky and full of personality, aren’t reflected inside the stores’ sparse interiors.

 The interior of the stores, which sort of remind me of a bedroom in a show home, tie together a small number of pieces to build an outfit – including shoes and jersey layers on a table in front (which is often a dishevelled heap.) The way they bring everything together for may seem like a commercial slum-dunk but as shoppers of all ages become more and more style savvy through blogs, free newspapers and celebrity culture, it becomes patronising and tiresome to suggest that a shopper may like to purchase a look wholesale right down to the shoes and bracelet.  The way the stores often drift into Sale or Childrenswear at the back with no distinct differentiation from the main lines is also incredibly confusing.

The reserved maturity of its sister company Massimo Dutti has clearly been the key influence on Zara’s  interiors.  For the older target market of that store, I think their retail design concept is bang on: the stores seem to drip with luxury.  On the whole though, the Zara product, though sophisticated, is younger, and I’d love to see Zara create a stronger distinction from its older sister, without drifting into the nightclub territory of Bershka. Why can’t the interior ‘wardrobe’ walls be colourful?  Different coloured corners of the shop for different trends? What about patterned flooring? Less sterile lighting at least? If the magic of the windows could trickle inside the store just a little, the excitement wouldn’t be left at the door.

So, do you agree with the assertion that Zara provides the best visuals on the high street?

Further reading:

Mary Portas’ experience of Zara – the Telegraph

How Zara has upped the stakes for fast Fashion – Harvard University

Zara post 10% profit boost in profits – Evening Standard

The Secrets of Zara’s Success – the Telegraph