There’s been a Diesel flagship in the heart of Covent Garden for ages and it’s always been good, if a trifle pricey.
Address 42 Earlham Street, WC2H
Number of floors Three
Brands Diesel – a mono-brand offer
Ambience Stylish industrial
Now it has emerged from a complete refit and it ticks most of the boxes you’d expect of a quasi-designer denim brand – expensive, industrial and it succeeds in making the shopper feel special while shopping for what is, in essence, a commodity product.
Diesel is one of those Italian brands that takes a basic article and then plays with it, adding layer upon layer of branded flim-flam to justify its prices. It’s not alone in doing this, but it does so in a way that leaves many other brands struggling to get out of the blocks.
And, when the nature of the Covent Garden competition is considered, the store – pre- and post-refit – shows what can be done with imagination and a hefty investment.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
At this end of the denim market, expectations tend to be high and Diesel does not disappoint. From the moment you walk into the three-floor emporium, there is something worth looking at. Whether it’s the arena-like feel of the ground floor, with its cluster of louche, denim-clad figures or the novel videotape box manner of displaying men’s underpants in the basement, this is about making the shopper take a second glance. The props for all the shelves and mid-shop tables are vintage and fit well with the store’s industrial ambience. And each table tells a merchandise story.
A score of 10 for visual merchandising is almost never given here, but Diesel comes really close.
02 - CONCEPT
This is a refitted store that has the advantage of a Victorian brick interior. Elements such as the varying-length pendant lights in the stairwell at the back of the store stand out. Care has clearly been taken to merge the shop equipment with the building’s heritage and the small accessories department plays the unfinished metal cabinet card well. The basement is for men, the ground floor is unisex and the first floor is for women. Simple, but interesting.
03 - SERVICE
Covent Garden’s a tough place for denim shops with True Religion, Replay and Levi’s all less than five minutes walk away from Diesel. Add this to the fact that prices for jeans start at about £70, and it’s easy to see why the art of persuasion has to be deployed. There are a lot of different fits so advising shoppers is where both perceived value and Diesel’s revenues come into play. The staff seemed up to the task, although this might be tricky if there are more customers than the few I saw when I visited.
04 - PRODUCT
Straight leg, regular waist; flared wide leg, regular waist; bootcut leg, regular waist; skinny leg, low waist; and, of course, super skinny leg, low waist. And this is just the women’s denim jeans offer – the choice is similar in the men’s range. The strapline ‘Trust your legs to Diesel’ seems appropriate. For the adventurous there are products from the Diesel Secret Laboratory with Jogg Jeans, aka the world’s first denim sweatpant, typical of the brand pushing boundaries. Price is not an issue – this is branded style.
05 - COMPETITION
As previously noted, Diesel is not alone in Covent Garden in looking to sell to the well-heeled shopper in search of a casual lifestyle. It does stand up to its rivals well and its pricing is in line with most of its competition; it’s hard to understand how True Religion gets away with the prices it charges – it really does appear to be in a high-price league of its own. The real point, however, might be whether in the current climate the market is large enough to support the number of retailers there are in the area. They all more or less stock the same product with some subtle variations.
06 - VERDICT - Competition may be an issue
If a store’s been around for a long time, then any kind of refit has to be sufficiently radical to make the shopper notice a difference. On this level, Diesel’s new look succeeds. This is a large denim shrine. The downside is that stores in prominent Covent Garden locations are expensive and a retailer needs to sell volume to show a meaningful return. The store was visited on a Monday, admittedly not the busiest day of the week, but it was lunchtime and there were a lot of people around, but they were not making their way into this shop.