In anticipation of this week’s Drapers Interview with F&F chief operating officer Richard Collins, we took a look around the brand’s new concept store launched at the end of October in West Kensington, London.
This store is a hybrid of F&F’s highly successful standalone concept it employs in Central Europe and the new shop fits the company has put into place through it’s Next Generation refurbishment program. And to that extent this store is an interesting prospect, found just within the superstore by transcending a twisting staircase above the café and overlooking general produce areas. It is distinct from the rest of the store, even to the point that the entrance is an arch rather than a completely open shop floor.
Over the past few seasons F&F has invested in better quality shop fixtures and fittings as well as implementing mannequins which gives this store a more high street feel. Well merchandised dummies flank the entrance while premium-looking (or at least more premium that the market level suggests) shelving and racking runs the length of the store. Despite the company setting itself out as a separate brand to the supermarket business, concessions in layout have been made, with wider aisles to accommodate trollies and buggies allowing ease of navigation. Though, lower tables and racks make the store feel more inviting than shopping for clothes in a standard supermarket context.
This store boasts the brand’s top store edit and some online exclusives (signage indicating the fact is perhaps a tad confusing considering they’re hanging in a physical store) both of which include some of the key autumn 13 trends. As the brand had just put out it’s Christmas drop, this included hairy finishes, sparkly decoration and great checked pieces.
Categories were zoned in a sensible fashion but allowed for cross-selling of complementary bottoms to complete the total look. Lingerie was completely sectioned off in this womenswear-only store, off to the left at the back, by the changing rooms. In a relatively small space - the store is around 2,300sqft - it would have been overambitious to try to include the kids and menswear offer so this womenswear edit works well.
Staff were beavering about during the visit at the press preview, but their energy and excitement suggested that customers will get good service when they make the trip up the stairs. Because the stock is edited so much - circa 300 SKUs are here, and there are 9,000 online - there is always a chance items may not to be available. So the specially trained staff have an online kiosk at their disposal which takes up a small corner just to the right of the entrance, and the multichannel aspect of the brand’s operation is heavily promoted throughout the store.
All in all the experience of shopping here is very much distinct from that of buying fashion in a traditional supermarket and despite the wider aisles and being able to see through to bits of grocery areas down in the store below, it comes off as a pretty slick operation that belies its position at the sharp end of the value market.
The interview with Richard Collins, chief operating officer at F&F is out this Friday.