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HoF puts best foot forward

I, for one, was quite excited to learn of House of Fraser’s plans for the new World of Shoes in its Oxford Street store which is set to open in time for the Jubilee weekend on June 1.

Following in the footsteps (no pun intended) of Selfridges and Harrods, House of Fraser is the latest department store to invest in its footwear offering and re-launch a dedicated footwear department.

In fact, such is House of Fraser’s confidence in its World of Shoes the retailer has said it hopes to become THE destination mid-market footwear area on Oxford Street.

And let’s hope it realises these ambitions as this has by no means been a small project. The area covers the entire lower ground floor of the flagship store, increasing the size of its footwear area to a very sizeable 12,500 sq ft, an increase of over 50% on its current footwear section.

Although the retailer did not disclose what it had spent on the World of Shoes, it can’t have been a trivial sum.

According to reports, in order to make the necessary changes, House of Fraser had to cut a large hole in the ground floor of the store in order to make way for an escalator and then had to re-lay both the ground and basement floors.

However, when you consider that Selfridges buying and merchandising director Sebastian Manes told Drapers last year that its women’s Shoe Galleries had outperformed expectations, selling 10,000 pairs a week compared with a target of about 8,500, is it any wonder that House of Fraser wants to get in on the action?

What is particularly interesting about the House of Fraser offering though is the brand mix it has chosen.

Obviously you have got all the usual suspects in there in the form of Dune and its associated brands including Bertie and Pied a Terre, Office and not forgetting department store footwear stalwart Kurt Geiger.

The area also features dedicated footwear concessions from womenswear favourites Karen Millen and Hobbs and but, probably even more unusually for a mid-market department store there is the addition of several more premium brands.

Steve Madden, will debut its first ever UK shop-in-shop, contemporary footwear brand Ash will also be there and there will also be a selection of brands, including Sam Edelman, Juicy Couture and See by Chloe, provided by fashion agency 1927, launching its first retail concession in the World of Shoes.

This is a fairly radical move for House of Fraser but carrying brands like this, which are not readily available elsewhere on the high street, could prove to be just the ticket when it comes to making a success of its World of Shoes. We are constantly told that customers are looking for a point of difference and World of Shoes could prove to be just that. Only time will tell.

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