Address 36 South Molton Street, London W1K
Opened November 17
Ambience Tropical minimalism
At the start of August, Brazilian plastic footwear brand Melissa opened a pop-up store in Covent Garden, which was covered in this magazine. Now, as all pop-up stores do, it has closed.
It’s been replaced, however – another Melissa store has appeared on South Molton Street. And the differences are pretty stark. This may be a pop-up, but in name only as its tenure is for “an indefinite period”, according to a member of staff, and the store is in fact a branch of footwear chain Author. Visit the Author website, head to the store locator page and there is Melissa.
The reason for this decision is that Melissa is one of Author’s best-selling brands, according to a member of staff in Melissa … who works for Author. It’s also almost completely different in look and feel from Covent Garden, revealing perhaps that a serial pop-up strategy might pay dividends in the right locations.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Gone are the neon tubes in the window and do-it-yourself agitprop atmosphere of the Covent Garden store and in its place is a store where minimalist visual merchandising is to the fore. On the day of visiting (a Thursday), the shoes and brightly coloured plastic shoppers were displayed on long white shelves running the length of the perimeter wall on both sides. There was equal simplicity about the windows. The floor-to-ceiling glass gives good views from front to back, but white plinths occupy the lower third of the glassline with pairs of shoes, housed in clear Perspex boxes, sitting on top of them.
There are mid-shop displays – low plinths, one of which has an illuminated top – but this really is a case of back to basics.
02 - CONCEPT
Most of the impact of this store is visible from the outside, thanks to the long decal on the window, giving a brief bio of the brand. This may be owned by Author, but the bright, tropical nature of both stock and the few props (parlour palms – what else?), give this a jazzy Brazilian feel, veering more towards tropical minimalism. And in case you miss the name above the glass, the one concession made to neon is at the back of the shop, where white neon tubes spell out ‘Melissa’.
03 - SERVICE
It’s to Author’s credit that the first member of staff your correspondent encountered was able to inform about the range and the nature of the Melissa brand, as well as outlining why the chain had opted to take the brand under its wing. A quick talk with some of the people who appeared to be more closely aligned with Melissa in Brazil revealed that the store is a work in progress and why it’s different from Covent Garden. A friendly bunch, and eager to learn and garner opinion on how things might be done better.
04 - PRODUCT
If you don’t know or understand what Melissa is about, you might wonder.
At the top end, some Swarovski-studded ballet shoes can be yours for £250, which does look expensive, while a £30 entry price for flip-flops puts it slightly ahead of Havaianas, although the end user is probably different.
In between the two extremes, the eye might be taken by cream ankle boots with contrast fake-fur trim for £80. This is quite a narrow offer, but it was attracting admiring glances, even if the prices were a trifle ambitious.
05 - COMPETITION
Author’s choice of Melissa as a stock and interior partner for one of its stores speaks volumes about the popularity of this brand – you really wouldn’t risk the proceeds of an entire branch unless you were pretty convinced about the potential performance. And indeed, there is nothing in the market that really does the same job as Melissa – it’s something of a one-off. That said, it’s a matter of what you might buy for the same money and on this reckoning Melissa might encounter a few problems if the economy were to tighten. Nonetheless, being almost unique is a strong place to be.
06 - VERDICT - The prospects are good
So Melissa has tested the market with its first pop-up shop and now we have version two.
This is a more grown-up version of the original, as befits its South Molton Street location – a thoroughfare that will probably benefit from Melissa’s injection of fun. It’s also to the credit of both Author and Melissa that this store should be so relatively different from Covent Garden, as this helps maintain interest. Whether the appetite for upscale plastic footwear will prove sufficient for further UK stores beyond the more chichi areas of central London is a moot point.