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High street - Hit or Miss - Bluewater

Footwear multiples at Bluewater in Kent are scrutinised this week, with trends, value, product mix and store environment all reviewed and rated

Footwear Hit or Miss traditionally analyses footwear specialists alone, but for spring 07 additional stores have been added to the mix. These include young fashion retailers New Look, Topshop and River Island, as well as the increasingly formidable Marks & Spencer. The additions reflect the changing shopping habits of consumers and the massive influence of multiple fashion players on the footwear sector.

Drapers' visit took place over Easter, meaning Bluewater was bustling with parents and teenagers. The majority of footwear retailers were in mid-season Sale, which detracted from the overall presentation of some stores.

Overall, retailers' styling plays it safe for spring, with little to excite. Far too many collections have put too much emphasis on the patent and metallic trends, leaving little room for originality. Looks inspired by the 1980s are popular, as are platforms and the now-ubiquitous pump. This lack of diversity means that not a single store has been awarded full marks - the highest score was eight out of 10, awarded to New Look, Schuh and the Shoe Studio concession in House of Fraser. All three demonstrated confident product offers that tick the right boxes for their target demographic.

At New Look, styles are varied and prices remain highly competitive. Interesting design is often limited because of the stores' value-led constraints, but there is still an impressive swathe of product that helps to stimulate the rest of the offer. Schuh's mix of own brand and branded product is not afraid to buck current trends, resulting in a kaleidoscopic mix. At the Shoe Studio concession, an eye-catching new shopfit highlights branded product that targets each of its customer groups accurately.

Elsewhere, merchandise strategies have not moved on significantly since last season. Ravel's younger offer - launched for autumn 06 - lacks the focus required to poach Faith's customer base. And at Dolcis, an unconvincing repositioning to the young fashion sector, teamed with sloppy staff and a scruffy store, leads to a poor score.

BLUEWATER: THE FACTS

- The mean average household income for shoppers in the Bluewater area is £37,733, compared with a national average of £33,706.

- The average weekly spend per household on footwear (excluding kids' footwear) is £3.93, higher than the national average of £3.24.

- These figures can be divided into a weekly spend of £2.26 for women's footwear and £1.67 for men's. Both figures are lower than the weekly womenswear clothing spend, which is £14.22, and the menswear clothing spend, which is £8.56.

- The median average household income is £30,000 to £35,000, higher than the national average of £25,000 to £30,000.

- The total weekly spend on footwear in Bluewater is £14.48 million.

Source: CACI using Retail Footprint catchment model

NEW LOOK

Upper Mall, site 87

Spoilt for choice on design and price from the high street giant

LOOKS

New Look's footwear stretches to 200-plus pairs including colourways, so it's no surprise that it ticks the most trend boxes. These range from metallic, patent and 1980s looks to wedges, thongs, pumps, monochrome and neutrals. There's hardware studding in the Giles range, while plastic and suede offer a more futuristic edge.

MIX

There is an emphasis on pumps and flat sandals, which shoppers seem to buy in bulk. Heeled designs span the style spectrum, with mainstream stilettos keeping the office wardrobe in check, while more directional two-strap studded spikeheels give a Sienna Miller-inspired rock-chic vibe. The Acupuncture brand is also sold here.

STORE

Late Monday afternoon means the Bluewater store is relatively quiet and exceptionally tidy - a rare sight in the traditionally bustling footwear department. As a result, its signature white and lime green acrylic shelving has its desired slick, clean effect. Pumps hanging on racks look neat, if a little sparse in some places.

VALUE

The consistently low prices of New Look's footwear is a modern retail wonder. Leather thong sandals in an array of colours are unbelievable value at £12, while £20 leather trainers are a steal alongside £25 fabric styles. If you want more on-trend looks, expect to pay a higher, albeit still competitive, £30 to £35.

SCHUH

Upper Mall, site 103

Doing it for the kids, the Schuh offer is unparalleled

LOOKS

The teen and twenties markets are indulged at Schuh, with must-have brands from Babycham to Firetrap. The store's own brand has neon pink kitten heels that will appeal to the Paris Hilton set, while rainbow snakeskin-look platforms have a disco edge. The offer even includes pink brothel creepers. Never let it be said that Schuh plays it safe on styling.

MIX

Branded product takes centre stage. Men are treated to Vans, Swear, Converse, Vagabond, Birkenstock, Camper, K-Swiss, Kickers, G-Star, Merrell, Paul Smith, Ikon, Kickers and Adidas, with Irregular Choice, Red or Dead, Firetrap, Rocket Dog and Skechers for the women. Pumps and trainers dominate, but spats-style boots and sandals also feature.

STORE

The store is bursting with shoppers, but sales assistants are still on hand. The vast interior mixes a chic boudoir setting with a more industrial loft feel, and the slightly cluttered displays work well in this youth environment.

VALUE

The amount of choice means that most price points are met, but pricing never drops quite as low as rival New Look. Women's own-brand shoes range from £40 to £60 - cheaper than Irregular Choice but pricier than Firetrap.

SHOE STUDIO

Within House of Fraser, Upper Mall

Focuses on trend-driven dressy styles with a wearable edge

LOOKS

There's something for everyone here. Pied a Terre ticks the luxury box with sexy heeled designs. Bertie takes the trend-led route, while Principles has mainstream looks including satin-embellished pumps. Roland Cartier's blend of classic daywear and glittery sandals is better than last season, while Fly London works a youthful, quirky edge.

MIX

Platforms dominate across the brands apart from at Roland Cartier, which veers towards classic court shoes and strappy sandals. Pumps prove popular throughout. At Bertie, patent peep toes with stiletto-style heels have filtered down from Pied a Terre's autumn collection at a more accessible price point. Casual sandals are kept to a minimum.

STORE

This is an eye-catching concession that gives a real shop-in-shop experience. Black wood and orange acrylic display cubes are set against a textured white wall, with low display tables helping to create a boutique feel. A few remaining Sale items are merchandised with full-priced product so markdown lines don't look scruffy.

VALUE

Some pricing of brands is inconsistent. Pied a Terre's metallic heeled sandals at £99 are reasonable, but elasticated flats at £90 are pricey. Principles' £40 thong sandals look expensive against the rest of the offer. Bertie is the most consistent, with flat ponyskin sandals at £35 and cream square-toe platforms at £75.

ALDO

Lower Mall, site 158

An impressive trend direction that also includes menswear

LOOKS

Platforms, patent styles and Perspex or mirrored heels pick up the 1960s trend. The men's offer is particularly diverse, with tartan canvas slip-ons or Miami Vice-inspired loafers. Formal styles have distressed, crumpled or stitched finishes.

MIX

Aldo leans heavily towards platforms and slick clutch bags that accessorise perfectly. Pumps are also popular, with quilted finishes and transparent designs. Evening shoes, espadrilles and thongs are given equal space. Womenswear takes up 60% of the shop floor.

STORE

The store interior is merchandised by style and does what it says on the tin, displaying shoes in a fuss-free, consistent manner that makes it easy to shop. The clean white display tables and shelves are complemented by large, glossy graphics in the windows. The effect is a little like Ikea, but works well. Staff are vigilant without being pushy.

VALUE

Square-toe hidden platforms with a wooden heel are £70, while plastic ballet pumps at £20 and jelly shoes at £10 provide a fast fashion hit at good value prices. In menswear, patent white or black formal slip-ons at £80 sit alongside leather thong sandals with graphic print soles at £25.

RIVER ISLAND

Upper Mall, site 39

Offering credible design in a stylish shopping environment

LOOKS

Confident 1980s styles look fresh, with coloured leather and plastic stilettos and black and silver peep toes at the fore. Metallics are strongest on gold cork wedges. Menswear plays it safe with a raft of mass-appeal hybrids and sandals.

MIX

The women's offer is dominated by own-brand, focusing on heeled and flat sandals. In contrast, the men's range counts Quiksilver, Von Dutch, Havaianas and Hudson among its cohorts. Most of the looks lean towards hybrid styles.

STORE

A great use of space, this two-storey shop sites the women's offer on the ground floor and men's on the upstairs mezzanine. The former is a little disappointing due to the crammed wire sales racks, but the men's area looks strong, with large graphics on the back wall and competently merchandised low-level orange tables.

VALUE

Black perforated suede stilettos with an asymmetric elastic strap at £45 are good value, largely thanks to the lack of similar styles elsewhere. White patent shoe boots at £55 and elasticated pumps at £25 are overpriced compared to New Look. Menswear is better, with brown graded leather brogues for £50.

TOPSHOP

Lower Mall, site 118

Topshop stays one step ahead with original twists on current trends

LOOKS

Rather than slavishly following trends, Topshop's spring looks includes Mary Janes and chunky peep-toe slingbacks in retro colours from mustard to putty. Hardware styling - a trend missing from many ranges - features as metal clasp-style details on black sandals. The metallic and patent trends are here without being flogged to death.

MIX

Stocking only own-brand product, the style mix at Topshop is particularly important. The collection includes rubber flip-flops, thong sandals, flat peep toes in leather or fabric finishes, almond-toe suede and leather pumps, towering metallic wedges with espadrille or wooden heels, and patent mock-croc slingbacks.

STORE

Situated at the back of the store, Topshop's Shoe Lounge uses sunken shelving and low-level tables. Brown faux-suede slab-style seats are well situated, but are mainly used by bored other halves. Bluewater's 'Buy It Now' section lets the side down with an overloaded display - there can't possibly be that many must-haves.

VALUE

Classic rubber flip-flops at £5 are a steal, as are the retailer's competitively priced leather thong sandals at £12. Ballet pumps at £35 are reasonably priced thanks to their crumpled, original-looking finish, while most of the heeled sandals or wedges sit comfortably between the £50 to £60 mark.

DUNE

Upper Mall, site 137

Competent collection let down by poor service

LOOKS

Satin neutrals fit for the wedding season sit alongside metallic cork wedges and gingham stilettos. Dune focuses on attention to detail with multiple treatments applied to each shoe, such as embroidered and printed stilettos or raffia and laser-cut leather peep toes.

MIX

Dune's styling remains on target, if limited, with an array of WAG-style stilettos. Its men's offer is concise but varied, and includes hybrid trainers, loafers and classic brogues.

STORE

The butterscotch walls and curved glass shelving creates a contemporary and feminine environment, so it is disappointing when sales assistants fail to offer any help. A mid-season Sale poster in the window is a necessary evil. Display boxes sunk into the outside wall are a chic way of showcasing Dune's key trends.

VALUE

At £125, Dune's metal studded and diamante stilettos are at the top of the price band, but are bang on the money for the store's glitzy target customer. Silver cork wedges at £75 are a little pricey, but satin neutrals at £60 and men's brogue-style trainers at £50 are prime examples of great-quality footwear at sensible prices.

KURT GEIGER

Within House of Fraser, Upper Mall

Prices soar as Kurt Geiger gets a bit too big for its boots

LOOKS

Spring's patent trend is a perfect fit for the Kurt Geiger Luxe line, which backs powerful stiletto styles. The Fashionistas range is more directional, with Perspex heels and patent and perforated straps. Colour is key for the KG line, which picks up on square peep toes. An update of the Roger Vivier buckled court is a good alternative to the ubiquitous pump.

MIX

As the luxury trailblazer of the high street, Kurt Geiger's focus on premium product does not leave much room for variation. Brands are kept apart on adjacent display tables, with little else to identify them. More traditional Carvela styles, from soft leather sandals to heeled courts, are the only discernable choice. A range of Ugg boots breaks up the offer.

STORE

The funky neighbouring Shoe Studio area high-lights how disappointing Kurt Geiger is. Weak branding fades away and office-style seating does not complement the slick footwear. Low-rise tables work well for browsing, despite their dull configuration. Staff are friendly, if a little loud and chatty, and there are customers waiting to be served.

VALUE

Price points are on the rise here, so expect to pay top whack despite its high street status. The Luxe range offers classic patent stilettos at a staggering £219 - the same price as sandals in the much-copied Fashionistas line. With most of the KG styles at £75, this diffusion line is pricier than most mainlines, but quality is spot on.

OFFICE

Lower Mall, site 168

The repetitive footwear designs are a big disappointment at this store

LOOKS

Office has been lazy for spring, with too many repeat styles. The 1980s dominates with neon-coloured sandals and ballet pumps. Some retro styling still features, with an updated shoe-boot.

MIX

Flats surpass heels, with pumps proving popular. Babycham, Keds and Rocket Dog sit next to sportswear Converse and Dunlop Green Flash. Men's footwear is split between formal Ask The Missus, Hudson and Democrata brands, and Office's usual mass of trainers.

STORE

The bland and messy window display isn't helped by the 'Summer Explosion' slogan written across the glass in barely-there white. There's an odd approach to merchandising, with styles hanging on racks and appearing again on display shelves. Sale racks look scruffy, but the umbrellas hanging from the ceiling are a nice touch.

VALUE

The styles that are likely to prove most popular are very fairly priced. Canvas pumps range from £25 to £30 and own-brand ballet pumps come in at £25. Neon sandals are £25 and woven metallic sandals are £35, with retro-styled leather heels at £55. In the men's section, loafers look reasonable at between £50 and £65.

RUSSELL & BROMLEY

Lower Mall, site 176

An eloquent interpretation of glitzy summer trends, but the storefit needs an overhaul

LOOKS

Russell & Bromley has banked on variations of the black, white and silver trend proving popular. Key styles include mirrored-heel peep-toe wedges and silver or black patent peep-toe platforms, as well as flashy designs by Stuart Weitzman and Beverly Feldman, many of which feature leopard prints, transparent straps and lace overlays.

MIX

The main womenswear flavour is 'south of France meets Miami', and is all about high glamour. Styles are weighted towards heels, with platforms, wedges and clogs all playing a part. Flats take in both flip-flops and thongs as well as pumps. Men's styles are dressy, with formal brogues and loafers dominating the offer.

STORE

The large glass double-fronted store has a white, black and silver merchandised window exhibiting pages from Vogue, Marie Claire, GQ and Esquire, highlighting Russell & Bromley's discerning customer base. This jars slightly with the interior, where retro-looking chairs and a dated rust-coloured carpet are in need of an update.

VALUE

Customers expect higher prices thanks to the high quality, but with prices rising elsewhere some styles seem good value. Mirrored-heel peep-toe wedges come in at £100, grey Roger Vivier-style patent pumps are £125 and suede pumps are £65. In menswear, horse-bit loafers are £125 and brogues are £225.

SOLETRADER

Lower Mall, site 101

An unbeatable product offer for the lads, but Soletrader's own-brand range is poor

LOOKS

Soletrader's own-brand Sole focuses on formal styles, with loafers at the fore. Elsewhere in the store, looks range from plimsoll-style trainers by G-Star to polished brogues at Katharine Hamnett and mainstream looks from Base London. The women's emphasis is on easy-to-wear trainers and classic Birkenstocks.

MIX

No other footwear retailer can compete with this menswear brand mix, which includes Etnies, Merrell, K-Swiss, Kowalski, Paul Smith, G-Star, Kickers and Jeffery West. Just 10% of the store is devoted to women's styles, with brands such as Lacoste, Bensimon and Birkenstock, and is a good use of add-on sales space.

STORE

The interior is spot on for its target male customer. Footwear sits on skateboard-shaped shelving that hangs off space age-inspired arms. The 50% off Sale sign in the window is not the most aesthetically pleasing graphic, but will draw in the lads. Seating is tucked away in the corner - perfect for those who don't like an audience.

VALUE

With styles priced between £55 and £60, Soletrader's own-brand formal footwear undercuts the branded product, which hits price points as high as £180 for a Hugo Boss lace-up and £160 for Officine Creative brogues. Nevertheless, the selection is limited and largely focuses on loafers, which is to the retailer's detriment.

CLARKS

Lower Mall, site 116

A season-on-season improvement, although more work is needed from the design department

LOOKS

Clarks is still struggling with its women's offer, although the spring range improves on past collections. The 'pump promise' that design doesn't have to be at the expense of comfort is met. The mainstream range has reasonable wedges and T-bar courts. But the Originals collection remains an enigma on both direction and price.

MIX

The style split is quite even, with smart, casual and sporty looks all performing well. Flats are better styled than heels, with both ballet pumps and trainers of note.The men's offer is more mainstream.

STORE

Ad campaigns in the window, such as 'the pump made perfect', look fresh and work well with the matching footwear. The menswear window is smaller but is just as eye-catching. The store itself is satisfactory, although the shopfit looks a little dated.

VALUE

The retailer fulfils its promise to provide high-quality, good-value footwear. The women's mix includes ballet pumps from £25 to £40. Ultra-soft leather T-bar wedge sandals come in at £35, while eveningwear styles range from £30 to £35. However, prices in the Originals range inexplicably jump to £75 for a sandal.

FAITH

Lower Mall, site 100

This branch of Faith fails to cut the mustard against its competitors

LOOKS

Styles never quite hit the mark at Faith, which is finding its positioning difficult to define in a crowded young fashion market. Bright primary colours are a key feature of the 1980s-inspired courts. Wooden heeled platforms look fresh, but the perennial wedding shoes look dull. WAG-inspired designs at Faith Solo are too similar to the Dune signature.

MIX

The summer pump trend is lacklustre here despite its prominence. Tie-ups with Gil Carvalho (S&M-inspired looks) and Olivia Morris (funky brights) make up 10% of the mix and are more interesting.

STORE

An unusual store front with a 3D display unit that protrudes at right angles from the facade. The interior ticks the contemporary boxes, with plain white walls, wooden panelling and orange seats. But the scruffy Sale racks in the entrance aren't up to scratch.

VALUE

Basics are pretty good value, with simple thong sandals at £15 and pumps at £22. At the top of the price scale, Faith Solo by Olivia Morris has patent strap sandals at £75 and slingbacks with the Faith Solo by Gil Carvalho label are £90. A pink mock-croc studded stiletto hits the top of the store's price range at £125.

JONES BOOTMAKER

Lower Mall, site 153

Good quality footwear, although the designs can be slightly dull

LOOKS

Jones' muted metallics result in a mainstream offer at odds with the high glamour approach taken by its competitors. Mary Janes, slingback wedges, mid-heel peep toes, animal print ballet flats and thong sandals are the most trend-driven looks on offer here. A merchandise tower dedicated to Crocs is a surprise but provide a bridge option.

MIX

The men's and women's mix is evenly divided. Classic courts and traditional slingback sandals dominate the latter, with styles from Hush Puppies and Camper reinforcing the store's comfort offer. Alongside the Jones own brand, the menswear range is joined by Ted Baker, Timberland and Paul Smith.

STORE

This is a slick store thanks to a concertina main entrance that slides back to welcome customers. Lime green boxes and signposts are used in the men's area, with pink for the women's offer, ensuring that the store's merchandising is eye-catching and effective. Wood and glass units look busy without being overcrowded.

VALUE

Quality is key at Jones, so although the store may not perform on trend, its prices are consistently affordable. Kitten-heel ballet pumps are £65, with neon embroidered peep-toe wedges at £50. Pin-punch loafers and brogues range from £75 to £145, with Oliver Sweeney brogues at £225.

LK BENNETT

Lower Mall, site 170

Hostile shop staff undermine this well thought-out product offer

LOOKS

In maintaining its luxury appeal, trends come second to opulent styling at LK Bennett. Patent features, but it's not as dominant as suede, which in purple and cherry red is the preferred palette. Classic snakeskin slingbacks sit alongside more directional styles.

MIX

There's an even split between heels and flats. Kitten heels with subtle two-strap designs prove popular, while suede and velvet platforms and espadrille wedges also feature. Flats take in easy-to-wear versions of the espadrille.

STORE

The shop is immaculate. Glass and brass-effect fixtures and fittings give the impression of a vintage boutique, with deep aubergine velvet seating adding to the luxurious environment. However, the store is empty and even after much browsing not one of the three assistants offered to help. Good looking store - shame about the service.

VALUE

LK Bennett's prices appear a little less inflated this time around, although the summer season means there are no pricier knee-high boots on offer. Roger Vivier-inspired patent pumps are £129, flat suede espadrilles are £59, and the retailer's zebra or leopard print ponyskin platforms are £169.

MARKS & SPENCER

Lower and Upper mall

A lacklustre and monotonous women's footwear range lets this store down

LOOKS

The women's offer at M&S is disappointing from a trends point of view. However, square-toe ballet pumps from the Limited collection are a winner, as are almond-toe soft leather flats with squashy bows. Moulded wedges, leather courts and deck shoes fail to ignite interest. Men fare better, with the well-priced Jeffery West range.

MIX

M&S has taken its time to meet the needs of as many of its core womenswear customers as possible, with a good selection of wide-fitting Insolia branded styles to the fore. Autograph's footwear accounts for about 15% of the store's offer, with Limited coming in at 10%. Unfortunately, much of the mainline footwear range lacks newness.

STORE

Uniformly tidy, the women's area comprises 26 white shelving towers as well as display units on the wall, giving the feel of a production line. However, scattered seating relieves the monotony of the store. Much smaller in size, the men's department has a stylish edge, with glass shelving, dark wooden surrounds and lime acrylic display boxes.

VALUE

The men's footwear offer is consistently well priced. At £60, Autograph by Jeffery West brogues sit alongside M&S Goodyear welted brogues for £129, deck shoes for £40 and extra wide formal basics at £30. In women's, the Limited ballet pumps are £20, and Insolia wedge peep toes are £40.

RAVEL

Upper Mall, site 23

Design gems are lost in this poorly merchandised store

LOOKS

A 1980s trend results in some interesting styles, such as cobalt blue and beige peep-toe stilettos with laser-cut heart details. Wedge-heeled coloured peep-toe slingbacks also stand out.

MIX

Flats trail in the wake of heels, which is a welcome difference. Classic stilettos, peep-toes, courts and wedges are all key. For men, a dandy-inspired black and white story sits alongside classic tan and chocolate styles.

STORE

With gender-themed 'Objects of Desire' graphics in each of the two window displays, the store is inviting. But it's a little crammed inside and suffers from poor merchandising. Key trend-led styles including Stella McCartney-inspired raffia heeled sandals are placed halfway down the store, facing towards the back wall.

VALUE

Prices stack up well against Ravel's main competitors. The cobalt blue and beige peep toes are £65, espadrille platform wedges are £50, raffia sandals are £75 and silver dancing shoe-type flats are £30. For men, patent dress shoes are good value at £60, and Hby Hudson deck shoes are £70.

SHOON

Lower Mall, site 54

This dreary looking, comfort-led offer needs a boost

LOOKS

Shoon is not a trend-led store. Its womenswear offer of sandals and flats has tapped into spring's colour-dominated story, but lacks the metallic and patent looks that are so on-trend. Espadrilles tick one style box, while men's hybrids and deck shoes are competitive. But designs across the comfort-led offer do not compare well to other high street looks.

MIX

In terms of the comfort market, Shoon's line-up is impressive and is unrivalled at Bluewater. The store's brand roster includes Riva, Ecco, Van Dal, Vagabond, Pikolinos, Naot, El Naturalista, Gabor, Rockport, Josef Seibel, Timberland, Camper and Cushe. Fashion classics by Birkenstock and Bensimon could produce add-on sales.

STORE

Shoon's wooden shopfit is a claustrophobic choice for the small floorspace, while the slatted walls look dated and it would benefit from brighter lighting. A women's themed window focuses on shoes by Think!, with quirky graphics in candy colours. Menswear is dominated by hybrids and trainers from Puma, Cushe and Camper.

VALUE

The men's trainer offer starts at £65 for Cushe, £80 for Timberland and up to £90 on Camper and Tsubo. Basic leather sandals by Gabor are £45, Hogl sandals are £65 and Think! clogs are £65. Overall, prices are high but this is specialist footwear and the store's customers are unlikely to worry about value.

BARRATTS

Lower Mall, site 61

A hugely disappointing array of bargain-basement styles

LOOKS

The colour explosion that meets customers as they enter this store is an indication that Barratts is backing spring's 1980s trend in depth. Unfortunately, its interpretations are a little hit and miss, with too many basic stilettos and clumpy-looking ballet pumps. Glittery platform shoes by Shellys look a little last-season.

MIX

The 60/40 womenswear to menswear split is a reasonable divide, but the menswear offer lacks the direction of the women's designs, with basic loafers dominating. The Barratts own brand is buoyed by Shellys and Morgan on the women's side.

STORE

Display towers at the entrance are sloppily merchandised, with an own-brand unit showing Morgan footwear. The store's glass and metal display tables look tired. Too many styles are crammed onto the shopfloor.

VALUE

Prices here are not nearly as competitive as expected. Ballet pumps are pricey at £25, although leather ankle-tie pumps are a more reasonable £20. Jewel-embellished sandals at £40 seem steep, but patent sandals at £28 are good value. Menswear fares better, with a deal offering two pairs of loafers for £40.

DOLCIS

Upper Mall, site 37

A disappointing shopfit and lacklustre collection suggest an overhaul is needed

LOOKS

Despite targeting a younger fashion crowd, Dolcis has yet to deliver a confident stab at the trends to attract shoppers away from Barratts or New Look. Red stilettos - a nod to the 1980s - sit with animal prints, pumps and bow-embellished neutral satin platforms. But overall impressions are a little too bargain basement.

MIX

The mainstream nine-to-five footwear for which Dolcis was once famed has been dethroned in favour of young fashion styling for the women's own-brand offer. For men, it's more brand-led, with CAT, Kickers and Ikon at the fore. Whether men would prefer to shop here or at Soletrader with its broader offer is questionable.

STORE

There is so much that's wrong with this store. Mid-season Sale posters sully the windows with additional 'Lines added for Easter' banners for extra measure. The white interior and blue carpet is more suited to an opticians and paper litters the floor. It's far from a comfortable experience. Staff - with their shirts untucked - stand in groups chatting.

VALUE

There is little arguing with the competitive nature of the Dolcis price architecture, although you get what you pay for in the quality stakes with some styles. Textured ballet pumps are £20 and printed pumps are a reasonable £15. The satin platforms come in at £35, while classic black pointed stilettos are £25.

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