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Streets ahead

Forget New York or Paris - when it comes to trend-driven, fast-paced and affordable high street fashion, London’s Oxford Street leads the way.

Oxford Street in London beats its international rivals hands down when it comes to affordable, fast-moving, trend-driven high street fashion, according to a Drapers survey.

Perhaps one marketing manager put it best when, asked to rank Oxford Street against the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Via Torino in Milan, Fifth Avenue in New York and Omotesando in Tokyo, she said: “Oxford Street gives the complete mix - the others only have half the story”.

The survey of Drapers subscribers - from designers, buyers and retail directors to independent retailers and manufacturers - saw Oxford Street ranked number one for high street fashion by respondents, taking a huge 89% of the vote, ahead of Fifth Avenue and Omotesando - both of which only 4% ranked number one - the Champs-Élysées on 3% and Via Torino on 1%. The survey also showed that Oxford Street is seen to have the widest breadth of significant high street fashion brands, as well as providing the widest choice of styles, brands and price points.

“High street [fashion] is all about commercial variety, and I believe Oxford Street really lives up to that challenge,” said one respondent. Another agreed: “[It has the] best prices, widest choice for brands, best fashionable collections, inspiration for fashion and styling, best fashion accessories, best services and offers.” A third respondent found it “hard to think of a high street retailer that isn’t on Oxford Street”, calling it “the leader by far”.

Oxford Street also trounced its international competitors on pricing, with 82% of respondents voting it the number one street for affordable fashion. While unfavourable exchange rates for the euro, the yen and the dollar played their part in making up some minds for this question - the pound is giving the London destination the edge in affordability - it wasn’t the only reason it came top. “On pure affordability London is streets ahead; even the high-end market is more affordable here,” said one respondent. Another thought: “The UK has the best value fashion retailers in the world,” as did a third, who commented that “London is the best place for trend-led low-cost fashion”.

One fashion professional praised the fact that “prices aren’t factored up for tourists”, while another pointed to Oxford Street’s range of “affordable high street brands” such as Topshop, New Look and H&M.

Setting a hot pace

Drapers’ survey also recorded a strong performance from Oxford Street when it came to moving quickly on new trends. 68% of respondents thought it was the fastest of the five shopping streets to translate designs to the shopfloor. Retailers such as Topshop, Zara, Jigsaw, Oasis, Selfridges, House of Fraser, Debenhams, New Look and Liberty were praised for their ability to translate trends, while one respondent said the turnaround from design to shopfloor can sometimes be within six weeks. “Oxford Street is very good at interpreting catwalk trends. The other streets tend to offer more [conservative] established brands,” thought one fashion professional.

This is arguably why Oxford Street triumphed as the best street for designer or celebrity collaborations with high street retailers, with 66% of fashion professionals ranking it top, well ahead of the second-placed Fifth Avenue. H&M, New Look and Topshop were all named as key stores in this category, with the Kate Moss for Topshop collections frequently cited as an example.

The London shopping street was also out in front on new styles, with 72% saying it was the street to most frequently introduce a new range. “Fast fashion on Oxford Street is frequently refreshed,” said a respondent, while another was pleased that shops on the street sell “new stock throughout the season”, and others praised its constantly changing window displays. The fast-moving nature of the street’s shops is down, in part, said respondents, to demand from London shoppers, but it is also because the shops there are “most susceptible to the individual manager’s discretion when it comes to merchandise movement, whereas places like Japan are highly controlled from the top down and most decisions are made on the corporate level”, said one respondent.

Source of inspiration

Perhaps this is why Oxford Street topped fashion professionals’ list when it came to inspirational fashion retailing/merchandising, although this was a closer-fought battle. The street was voted best in this category by 41% of those surveyed, ahead of Omotesando with 25% and Fifth Avenue with 19%.

Japan is seen as “very innovative”, but London is “more funky [and] extravagant” in its retailing and merchandising, thought one fashion professional, while another highlighted the street’s diversity and excitement, adding: “The problem with Fifth Avenue is that it is very spread out, and there is no real centre.” Oxford Street is also seen as the biggest tourist attraction compared with its rivals, with 39% of the vote.

“Creativity is inherent in London. Our department stores take pride in it, making it an art form, not just a marketing exercise,” said one respondent, who thought that “Tokyo similarly expects and respects a highly creative atmosphere in relation to shopping”. Another believed the UK was way out in front in this regard: “London gives a lot of attention to visual merchandising and display in general, whereas other cities are more about what’s inside the stores, with a limited amount of window space and exposure.”

Tokyo’s Omotesando edged in front in terms of directional fashion however, with 35% of fashion professionals ranking it the most directional, as opposed to 28% who plumped for London. Omotesando also just won out when it came to “inspired” fashion, coming in just ahead of London again. “Tokyo is a hybrid mix of interesting genres,” said a respondent and “whereas London can be directional it has a lot of mainstream fashion”. Another felt that although Japan was the leader in directional street fashion, the UK was only slightly behind, with Italy, France and the US tending towards “more mono-branded upmarket stores”.

Paris was judged the best for catwalk fashion by respondents, with New York and Milan also trumping London. “In London, Bond Street, New Bond Street and Knightsbridge are designer label destinations,” said one respondent. And the affordable fashion offered by Oxford Street means London also missed out when it came to high-quality fabrication, a category where fashion professionals judged the designer-branded Via Torino in Milan the best.

Overall, however, Oxford Street was ranked number one in most categories by respondents to the poll, topping nine categories out of 13. As one fashion professional put it: “Oxford Street wins by a mile.”

Fashion face-off: how the streets rated

Best for edginess

1. Oxford Street, London

2. Omotesando, Tokyo

3. Fifth Avenue, New York

4. Champs-Élysées, Paris

5. Via Torino, Milan

Most affordable

1. Oxford Street, London 2. Fifth Avenue, New York

3. Champs-Élysées, Paris

4. Via Torino, Milan

5. Omotesando, Tokyo

Best for quality

1. Via Torino, Milan

2. Champs-Élysées, Paris

3. Fifth Avenue, New York

4. Omotesando, Tokyo

5. Oxford Street, London

Speediest turnover of fast fashion

1. Oxford Street, London

2. Fifth Avenue, New York

3. Champs-Élysées, Paris

4. Omotesando, Tokyo

5. Via Torino, Milan

Widest choice of shops

1. Oxford Street, London

2. Fifth Avenue, New York

3. Champs-Élysées, Paris

4. Via Torino, Milan

5. Omotesando, Tokyo

Best for catwalk fashion

1. Champs-Élysées, Paris

2. Via Torino, Milan

3. Fifth Avenue, New York

4. Oxford Street, London

5. Omotesando, Tokyo

Quickest turnover of designs to shopfloor

1. Oxford Street, London

2. Fifth Avenue, New York

3. Champs-Élysées, Paris

4. Omotesando, Tokyo

5. Via Torino, Milan

Best celebrity collections/collaborations

1. Oxford Street, London

2. Fifth Avenue, New York

3. Champs-Élysées, Paris

4. Via Torino, Milan

5. Omotesando, Tokyo

For a full copy of the report in association with The New West End Company, click here.

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