Pitched as a “totally new retail experience”, Drapers discovers whether 5 Carlos Place lives up to expectation.
The location of Matchesfashion’s new retail venture, 5 Carlos Place, could not be more suitable for the luxury retailer and its affluent international customers.
Walking through London’s Mayfair, the pavement of Carlos Place sweeps in front of the grand hotel The Connaught, and runs on to Mount Street, where high-end fashion brands such as Loewe, Lanvin, Roksanda and Christopher Kane have already opened stores. The area is an ever-expanding hub of in-demand luxury – on the day Drapers visits, there is a long queue of shoppers outside Goyard, the exclusive leather brand, on the opposite side of the road.
Ulric Jerome, the retailer’s dashing French CEO, greets us at the front door – a door that will be permanently propped open to present a welcoming atmosphere to customers.
“It’s like walking into a home,” he says proudly. And he is right – just a very chic home. “It needed to be an exceptional space, for events [and] special showcases, and I think we achieved that”.
The listed, five-floor, 7,000 sq ft townhouse has been restored in collaboration with architectural practice P Joseph over 18 months. Original features have been retained, giving the interior a sense of grandeur, while modern luxuries such as bespoke art and designer furniture add a touch of character.
Jerome excitedly demonstrates the journey his customers will take. At the entrance, guests swipe their phones on discreet QR codes, which either activate the Matchesfashion app, or prompt new customers to download it. As he swipes, a notification immediately appears on his phone – “Hello Ulric, welcome to 5 Carlos Place”.
The first two floors are dedicated to retail and will be open to the public. The flexible layouts will change every two weeks, and display a stream of what Damien Paul, Matchesfashion’s head of menswear, calls the retailer’s “most engaging new product”: “It will be continually evolving, so there’s always something new and special to see.”
For the launch, Prada has taken over the store with more than 100 exclusive products that are not available anywhere else. Prada-branded pinball and vending machines add a layer of retail theatre.
Key products feature additional QR codes, which direct shoppers to online content, catwalk videos and shoppable product pages. Customers can buy products there and then, or have any item from the website delivered to the store in 90 minutes, even if just to try them on.
The next two floors feature a handful of individually decorated personal styling suites – essentially plush, oversized changing rooms for private shopping, which customers can pre-book online.
On the fifth floor sits the cafe, which will house different chefs and restaurant residencies. It will also double as a lifestyle event and experience space. More than 40 events are scheduled for September and October – including panel talks, supper clubs, flower-arranging classes and live music – all of which will be open to the public.
A key element is the adjoining media hub, which will broadcast each event on to the Matchesfashion website. This will add yet another layer of content to the website, turning it into a video, podcast and livestream lifestyle portal via a new section, called “What’s on”.
When Jerome reveals that 40% of Matchesfashion’s sales now come via interactions with its content, it is clear to see why content sits at the core of 5 Carlos Place, both physically in store – providing that experiential element – and digitally, and therefore internationally, via the website.
“The more people interact, the more they will shop,” he smiles.
For an online retailer that has built much of its success on sophisticated use of tech, there is a deliberate lack of flashy interactive digital mirrors, video screens or iPad stations at 5 Carlos Place. The most interesting tech is behind the scenes. For example, when customers check in, staff gain access to their profiles, revealing sizing information, past orders and online browsing history to enable them to provide what Jerome calls a “personal, unique, tailored” level of service.
“We’ve also built an algorithm that combines purchase history, browsing history, brands you have looked at and adjacent brands to suggest targeted recommendations,” he reveals.
A selection of products the algorithm has picked pops up on a staff member’s iPad, allowing them to add what Jerome calls the “all-important human layer”, and personally pick out items to suggest to the customer, or follow up with a personalised email once they have left.
“The shopping experience is simply amplified through technology,” says Jerome. “The technology is here to power the ability to shop.”
While other retailers have tried to blend online and bricks and mortar, 5 Carlos Place really does feel like a physical extension of the Matchesfashion website, which now attracts 100 million visitors a year from 170 countries.
“It’s a home for the [Matchesfashion] brand, building out what the website does already,” explains head of menswear Paul. “Lots of customers only see us as an online business, so coming here offers a totally new and different experience.”
Matchesfashion has three retail stores – in London’s Marylebone, Notting Hill and Wimbledon – but online now accounts for 90% of all sales, and its biggest single market is America.
5 Carlos Place is not a traditional shop, and some might be confused by the lack of product for passing customers to browse. However, what it successfully does is blend the website’s product edits, smart tech and digital content in a new and innovative physical way. It merges the best elements of bricks and mortar – the personal service, the luxury setting, touching the product, experiential events – with the tech-driven ease of the digital journey, while bringing its content to life in a seamless, non-gimmicky, luxury way.
In fact, 5 Carlos Place is the living, breathing physical homepage of Matchesfashion.com.