Two stores in as many weeks, or one and a half at least.
Address Oxford Circus, London W1B
Number of floors Six
Highlight The use of white neon across the store
Lowlight The climb to the top floor
That’s what H&M has unveiled on Regent Street and at nearby Oxford Circus. The first was & Other Stories, and a week later the refurbished H&M flagship at Oxford Circus was revealed to a waiting world.
The latter denouement was not before time. H&M’s Oxford Circus store has been around for years and until this revamp, it looked like it - overcrowded floors filled with stock that meant you couldn’t tell one level from another and which although cheap, was unappealing.
Now things have changed and the Swedish young fashion purveyor has a shop worthy of the flagship fascia and which has much to commend it in as far as being attractive to its core demographic. It also re-establishes this store’s status as a destination, putting it on a par with the others that surround this retail hub.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Neon, neon and more white neon - stretched and shaped into glowing word sculptures encased in transparent clear Perspex cases and set, for the most part, around the wall. Couple this with light boxes with moving content and perimeter open-front wardrobe modules and you have the essentials of this store.
Except it’s a lot more than this, whether it’s the mannequins on each floor with modish hairstyles or the pairs of legs and lower torsos suspended from chains attached to the ceiling in the men’s jeans department.
Indeed, in every area of the shop there are elements to capture the gaze. The windows are curated by blogger Susie Bubble, but didn’t seem to be striking a chord with shoppers.
02 - CONCEPT
This store spreads over six floors, with each level consisting of a relatively modest footplate. Stores of this kind are fine at the ground, first and maybe basement level. The challenge in premises of this nature is to get shoppers to the upper floors. This is why H&M has opted to make a feature of the bank of escalators and to pepper the walls with light boxes. It works insofar as it is attention grabbing and there is also a real sense of space about what has been done here.
03 - SERVICE
Busy, busy, busy - all of the staff, apart from those in the fitting rooms, seemed to be engaged in something, although it wasn’t clear what. They paid little attention to shoppers - indeed, it was almost as if they didn’t exist. This isn’t normally a problem in a budget fashion store, since finding your way around and a mild journey of discovery are part of what it’s about. Whether it’s a good idea to have a perpetually dancing staff member at the store front is a moot point, however - it seemed mildly intimidating to some shoppers.
04 - PRODUCT
There is so much to look at in this store that any attempt to categorise is destined to fail. That said, H&M has always been about young fashion and most of what’s on show here is bang on the money from this perspective. Whether it’s cropped leather bombers teamed with monochrome tiger-print leggings and a hoodie, or double denim, H&M seems to tick most of the trend boxes. And unlike many of its rivals, this is about value for money, aka cheap, which is perennially the other part of the H&M proposition.
05 - COMPETITION
Stand outside and look across the street and there’s the competition - Topshop. In the normal run of things this would be deeply worrying in that it’s easy to believe the hype that Topshop Oxford Circus is fashion central for visitors to the area.
That said, the price points are a notch or three above what’s on offer in H&M and for those who make-do on modest stipends, this may be sufficient to persuade them that Topshop isn’t for them. Primark, Zara and Mango are also all within a few minutes walk, but then you don’t have a store on Oxford Street and expect to operate unopposed.
06 - VERDICT - Back in the game
Long overdue is the obvious comment about what’s been done. And now that it’s been done, this store lives up to the label - a destination for those in search of an inexpensive fashion hit. And what’s really noticeable is the manner in which the previous store design rulebook has been pulped and the metamorphosis is of a caterpillar to butterfly order of magnitude. And almost everything has been done with one eye on the design budget. This refurb brings this branch into line with the high standards of Cos and & Other Stories on nearby Regent Street.