Upmarket independent Browns is to launch a standalone footwear store during London Fashion Week. Ahead of the soft launch at the end of January, Browns buying director Erin Mullaney tells Laura Weir why the landmark retailer is opening a boutique dedicated to shoes.
Browns first introduced a full footwear offer in the Molton Street store two years ago, why did you push into the category and has this been a success?
“We launched a dedicated shoe area in our flagship store about two years ago because we noticed a big increase in demand from our regular clients for designer shoes. Once we consolidated the shoes into one area and increased our offer online we saw a dramatic uplift in shoe sales and we started attracting a new customer that came to us specifically for show shoes and things that were not widely available elsewhere. I also feel that shoe design has become more exciting and creative in the past few years and designers are pushing the boundaries to the extreme which makes this category hugely dynamic and interesting right now. Shoes have become a collectors item of sorts and are definitely an addiction or fetish for many women (and men!) now.”
For the Browns business, what is it about this category that warrants its own location?
“Browns has always been the first to introduce new designers and products to the market and we felt that there was an opportunity in London to create a stand alone shoe concept that was new, exciting and dynamic. We also felt that the product had become so interesting and varied that it deserved its own dedicated space. We wanted to make a statement about shoes as a category and will not be putting any bags or other products in for the first 6 months.”
What is the vision behind the store concept, how will it differ from other footwear retailers in the area? Take me through the look, feel and the services on offer in store?
“The store will be consistent with the ethos and d飯r of other Browns shops. It will feel intimate and personal, like the living room of someone’s apartment. We tried to create an environment where people feel at home and have all the amenities they might need. We are looking into offering services such as shoe repair, personal shopping and manicure/pedicure appointments. There will be a lounge in the mens shop downstairs where men can have a coffee, read the paper and surf the web while browsing for themselves or waiting for their partner to shop upstairs.”
“We want customers to feel comfortable in the space and stay as long as possible. We also want to create an experience that can not be replicated elsewhere. Most importantly it will embody the essence of Browns which has always meant the best selection, the best customer service & product knowledge, exciting & exclusive new brands and a gorgeous personal environment to shop in.”
Will Browns be visiting the footwear trade shows such as Micam this season to bring more brands on board?
“We have eyes and ears everywhere and always try to attend as many tradeshows as possible but ultimately we want to discover new and interesting brands and be the first to launch them in the UK. This means a lot of research and hard work but it’s worth it in the end! We have also introduced several big name shoe brands for the launch such as Rupert Sanderson, Guiseppe Zanotti, Biondi Castana and Alessandro dell’Acqua.”
Are there plans to open this format in other towns at the moment?
“There are no plans to expand Browns outside of London at the moment but you never know! Our website is such a huge success and this is our window to the world. We have a very strong customer base in the UK outside of London and shoes are the fastest growing category online so I hope people will travel the distance to come and visit the shop in person when they have a chance as I think they will really enjoy the experience.”