Kalverstraat is a long pedestrianised thoroughfare in the middle of Amsterdam filled with a mix of generally mid-market brands and retailers.
Address Kalverstraat 55, 1012 NZ, Amsterdam
Total standalone stores in Europe Four
Brand Denim & Supply
Number of floors Two
It has probably seen better days and is always a little scruffy, but if the shopper goes in search of a casual brand, chances are they will find it somewhere along its length.
More upscale offers are somewhat thin on the ground, but among those that are present is Ralph Lauren brand Denim & Supply. The brand is available via UK stockists, but there are no standalone stores in the UK. Given the generally casually dressed nature of people in the Dutch capital, it is perhaps not surprising that the management at Ralph Lauren opted to open a store in this location. And while there are a handful of other European standalone stores, this was the first to open.
01- VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Wearing denim remains - in the minds of some people - an act of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion. That’s the theory at least, and Denim & Supply is there to reinforce this notion with acoustic guitars and amplifiers in the window to go alongside the artfully beaten-up looking denim displayed on the various body forms. The theme is picked up in store as the journey is made via the staircase at the back of the shop from the men’s offer on the ground floor to the women’s ranges upstairs.
The stairwell wall has more guitars, electric this time, interspersed with posters of rocks celebs from yesteryear. When the rest of the shop is scrutinised, the props add to the counterculture effect.
02 - CONCEPT
The concept is remarkably simple and effective. Take a large, high-ceilinged space, put in reclaimed wooden gym flooring, fill the perimeter with metal fixturing and then string large numbers of theatre-style lighting gantries overhead. On paper, this would seem like the formula for every retailer that sells denim, from All Saints to Superdry, and yet this one does have its own distinct character, thanks in large part to the feeling that it does not seem formatted.
03 - SERVICE
This is the kind of place you’d expect a rockabilly hero with turned-up selvedge jeans and slicked-back hair to be on hand to help you - and you’d not be disappointed. On the day of visiting, a lone male was on hand on the ground floor and upstairs a single woman fulfilled the same function. Both were advising customers, and to their credit, both seemed to be making practical suggestions. The best selling is about persuasion rather than coercion and this seemed to be being deployed to good effect.
04 - PRODUCT
The base item in this shop, as its name suggests, is a pair of jeans. Therefore, the price level can easily be gauged by reference to the category. Entry price for a pair of men’s slim-fit jeans is just shy of €90 (£78), rising rapidly thereafter with the different fits and finishes, and topping out with a style that features paint-spattered denim.
After that it’s a mix of Western retro, camouflage and Aztec-looking stylings for men. For women, the colours are lighter, with a greater emphasis on white.
05 - COMPETITION
The competition in denim is very fierce indeed along the Kalverstraat, although prices are generally cheaper than in Denim & Supply. From G-Star to Bershka, Pepe Jeans to Levi’s, most brands are represented. That said, Denim & Supply does a reasonable job of seeing off the competition in terms of presentation and its ability to take a basic item and make much of it. Being at the top end of the market for this category in the area means there will always be cheaper options, but if you’re looking for something more interesting, then this is a good alternative.
06 - VERDICT - WORTH A VISIT
For the most part, a visit to the Kalverstraat is a pretty uninspiring experience. Denim & Supply, however, does manage to lift the mood. This was always going to be a test bed for the Ralph Lauren brand and the fact that the number of stockists across the continent has blossomed since this store opened speaks volumes for its appeal. There is also the matter of price. Think Ralph Lauren and it’s probable that emptying the wallet might form part of the mental equation. Not so at Denim & Supply, which is surprisingly affordable.