Last week I wrote that the high street is not dead. This week proves it.
Despite persistent reports of store closures, internal business restructurings and flagging sales, a range of fashion retailers are defying this gloom and have boldly announced expansion plans both internationally and in the UK.
The £600m extension to Westfield London in White City, which opened this week, makes it Europe’s largest shopping centre and provides ample room for new launches. One of the first is John Lewis, which opened this week, while new stores are imminent from Adidas, featuring its stadium concept, as well as Boden, H&M, The White Company and Mango. Chinese fast fashion retailer Urban Revivo is also set to make its UK debut at the shopping centre. The new 230,000 sq ft John Lewis store will have an experiential focus. This is an approach John Lewis has been developing over the past year, starting with its store that opened at the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford last October. The aim is to drive footfall into the department store through a range of initiatives such as nail bars, personalisation stations and workshops. The range of store launches will bring further experiential initiatives to Westfield London, making it a destination for shoppers and a reason to visit physical shops.
Retail veteran George Davies is also bringing his women’s and kidswear brand FG4 to the UK market via department stores Beales. FG4 was initially launched in Saudi Arabia in 2011 and operates women’s and kids’ stores in the Middle East. It will be interesting to see how the UK product offering differs from that designed for the Middle East and how Davies, with his abundant retail expertise, will bring something new to the UK.
At the premium end of the market, womenswear brand Self-Portrait has also opened its first UK store in Mayfair, London.
Internationally, both Matalan and Missguided have announced a push forward with global expansion. The former is opening stores in Gibraltar and Malta, and the latter is moving into the Middle East via its franchise partner, Azadea Group.
These expansion plans show that despite the tough year retail is facing, the market is still very much alive and UK retailers are continuing to make their mark at a global level.
Restructuring and redefining a business strategy does not mean putting the brakes on. The industry cannot afford to stop moving forward for risk of getting left behind. The right move for a business, into the right market and done in the right way, can bring a new audience to a retailer. Expansion, alongside a clear business strategy, can secure a retailer’s place in the future UK and international fashion market.