What do elephants and men’s beachwear have in common? There’s a cheap joke here, but the answer would normally be very little.
Address The Beach, 5 Park Walk, London SW10
Product and shop design Oliver Tomalin
Charities Elephant Family, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Tusk Trust
However, visit the new Love Brand & Co store just off London’s Fulham Road, in the ritzy borough of Kensington & Chelsea, and perhaps the connection will be made.
The store sells luxury T-shirts and beach trunks for men and boys and donates 5% of the sales value to a trio of charities devoted to elephant conservation. Love Brand & Co director Oliver Tomalin cares about elephants, and is
the force behind the brand’s foundation and the man responsible for the design of all the store’s merchandise. He also takes a very hands-on approach to the enterprise, standing behind the counter and greeting shoppers who find their way to this exclusive part of west London.
01 VISUAL MERCHANDISING
The small green elephant outside the shop provides a clue to the nature of the experience within. The two windows, featuring matching man and boy orange polo shirts and printed beach trunks displayed on rope clothes lines strung between bleached wooden poles, also foster the idea that this is an ethical enterprise. The immediate sense is of a store that puts a strong emphasis on things natural. Inside, the same bleached wood theme is apparent around the perimeter with stock displayed side hung or on untreated wooden tables and trays. Black-framed photographs of sun-kissed types on beaches and images of elephants help to create the link between the offer and the altruistic intent.
This is a very simple layout with the bulk of the stock displayed around the perimeter. As well as the bleached wood used for the perimeter open-fronted wardrobe fixturing, much of the interior has been painted white, adding to the fresh, natural feel. An iPad at the cash desk offers information about elephants and the brand. The black shopfront with gold font may make you think pub, but is a change from the tasteful minimalism of so many shops nearby.
It’s quite hard to go wrong if the owner/manager/director is behind the counter and ready to advise on any aspect of the product and the shop. Tomalin is quite the jovial host. This is a posh shop, for which read luxury, in a posh part of London and there is a posh man behind all of it. In certain circumstances it could be off-putting, but such is Tomalin’s good nature that it seems immaterial and even when you’re being asked quite a lot of money for a pair of beach shorts it almost, almost, seems worth it.
Shorts, T-shirts and polo shirts for men, and boys who want to look like them, and that’s about it. But the variety of printed bottoms is such that the niche nature of the enterprise does not worry. The design modus operandi is simple: printed bottoms and plain, brightly coloured tops, all bearing the Love Brand & Co logo, which features a pair of trunk-touching elephants. None of this comes cheap though. For a pair of techno-nylon fibre printed shorts with a drawstring, the shopper is asked to shell out £119.
Having visited Selfridges’ new men’s bodywear department last week, a quick comparison seems reasonable. In that emporium there are also printed shorts and some of them are cheaper than in the Love Brand & Co shop, but the printed shorts offer is actually smaller. This retail proposition may be local to Chelsea, but those walking through its door and prepared to spend this kind of money will also be ranging across most of central London and therefore the competition net is cast wide. On which basis, Love Brand & Co has tough competition, elephant charities notwithstanding.
06 VERDICT: The prospects are good
Positing a branded offer on making a link with charity has a relatively long history for brands, but an entire shop founded on the notion of giving a portion of the sales to selected causes is more unusual. To make this proposition viable, ticket prices have to be high - operating costs in this part of London tend to be on the high side and if 5% of the value of sales is going to charities, then volume may also have to form part of the equation. This is a good-looking shop, but making its mark in this relatively off-pitch location may prove problematical.