Walk around Hong Kong’s Central District and you’ll see men dressed as if they’ve chosen some of the lightweight pieces on offer at Bosideng’s new London store.
Address 28 South Molton Street, London W1
Total UK stores One
Ambience Imperial Oriental
This is hardly surprising. The brand is in fact Chinese and it has chosen London’s West End to establish a European foothold. At this point, it is worth noting that Bosideng is one of the largest fashion operations in China, with close to 10,000 stores across the country.
It has opted to hit the ground running, taking over a former scruffy pub that always seemed to have an assortment of near-inebriated people imbibing outside it. In its place is a three-floor shop (with offices above it) that wouldn’t look out of place in the architectural playgrounds that are Hong Kong and Shanghai, but which does look a little odd, albeit interesting, here.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Think of Imperial China, and dark interiors with lacquered furniture may spring to mind. Something of the kind is evident here, where many of the mid-shop display tables are matt black lacquered boxes. Elsewhere, much of the stock is side-hung in open wardrobes around the perimeter. Freestanding mid-shop walls provide more space.
It all looks very discreet and according to the store directory graphic there are different collections on each floor. But you might not realise this, as the other two levels, basement and first floor, look remarkably similar. Finally, the curved glass window at the front of the shop has been made home to a man’s suit. In total, neat, but more than a mite dull.
02 - CONCEPT
A piece of contemporary urban China in the heart of London that sells menswear might be the best way to summarise this store. Externally, it is spectacular but you look at the building more than the windows or stock. Money has been lavished on the tiled floors and moody graphics, particularly one of a Bosideng-clad bloke with an eagle on his arm – the kind of self-portrait that might adorn the office of a central Asian dictator. An expensive interior but unexciting.
03 - SERVICE
Scrupulously polite service from the off. You were approached and then, if required, left to browse – hard sell is not part of the proposition. All of the staff seemed keen to point out the newness of Bosideng in the UK and to highlight its Chinese heritage. The real problem, however, was the fact that in spite of it being a Friday lunchtime and there being a lot of people along the length of South Molton Street, none of them were walking though Bosideng’s doors. Good service therefore, but to no avail.
04 - PRODUCT
South Molton Street is a luxury destination and this store is next to brand mecca Browns. As such you’d approach Bosideng expecting to pay better-end prices.
You would not be disappointed. Yet while this retailer may be big 5,000 miles away, and allowing for the undoubted quality of the fabrics, prices look high for an unknown brand and the styling is posh Oriental. Men’s striped Perry-collar polo shirts at £85 and jackets that are close to £400 smack of an optimistic take on what the market can stomach.
05 - COMPETITION
The competition is fierce. Within half a mile you can choose from Liberty, Selfridges and many more – all vying for the same well-heeled male of relatively mature years. The question is whether men will head for Bosideng in preference to these, and the paucity of shoppers in this store would appear to provide a ready answer. Menswear is a notoriously difficult market to crack and Bosideng has made a bold step into the arena with nothing to alert unsuspecting consumers of its arrival. It may work as a brand flagship while it takes space in department stores, but it does look tricky.
06 - VERDICT - The prospects are good
There can be little doubt the cost of entering the European market via South Molton Street is steep, and that Bosideng has chosen to do so with a piece of landmark architecture can only have added to this. Now add the fact there has been relatively little advertising and that the stylish website proves uninformative about how much anything actually costs, and it is hard not to wonder. The store is probably in the right place but some major adjustment of the merchandise mix may be required. Good, but not good enough for the prices demanded.