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Coast marks a grand occasion

Last night some other members of the Drapers’ team and I attended a VIP event to mark the opening of occasionwear retailer Coast’s new flagship store on London’s Oxford Street.

A far cry from Coast’s former flagship store on Regent Street (which the retailer will continue to trade out of), the store environment is significantly bigger and has a more high-end look and feel to it. The store bears absolutely no resemblance to its previous incarnation of a slightly drab branch of Clinton Cards.

However, what stood out for me even more than the new store environment was the product. Around 30% of the clothing and 60% of the accessories in the store are exclusive to the flagship and according to Coast parent company Aurora Fashions, it was this product that proved some of the most popular at a VIP customer event it held at the store yesterday.

While Coast’s signature duchess satin dresses were still very much in evidence, the product was a lot more varied in terms of fabrication, colour, cut and style and every member of the Drapers’ team at the event was coveting at least three of four of the dresses we saw.

When I spoke to Coast’s managing director Margaret McDonald this week about the store, she said that having a lot more space would allow the retailer to showcase not only the product it is famous for but also a lot more new product designed to serve a wide range of different occasions.

The retailer certainly hasn’t disappointed in that respect. A fashion show at last night’s event drew a lot of approving looks from the crowd and I am sure there were many who were surprised with the sheer range of looks and styles available.

In May, Drapers published an analysis of the occasionwear sector which found that the occasionwear market had enjoyed 1.1% year-on-year growth. Those in the sector believe that this is because occasionwear has weathered the downturn better than other parts of the fashion industry with shoppers still buying new product when they have a special event to attend.

Those in the sector tell me that if the product is strong enough and the customer feels good in it, then they will make the purchase, regardless of the increasing pressures on consumer spending.

If this is indeed the case, then Coast should have a lot to be hopeful for when it comes to its new store.

Ruth Faulkner, reporter, Drapers

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