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Iconic stores need a change for the better

Jessica Brown

Which stores inspire you? Colette, Merci and Maria Luisa in Paris? 10 Corso Como in Milan? Tokyu Hands in Tokyo? Or perhaps it’s the Apple experience or the buzz of Topshop Oxford Circus. Certainly iconic British department store Liberty probably comes somewhere fairly high on the list.

Which stores inspire you? Colette, Merci and Maria Luisa in Paris? 10 Corso Como in Milan? Tokyu Hands in Tokyo? Or perhaps it’s the Apple experience or the buzz of Topshop Oxford Circus. Certainly iconic British department store Liberty probably comes somewhere fairly high on the list.

Its incredible maze-like Tudor building, enviable location just off London’s Regent Street, high brand recognition, plus an archive of print designs to die for make the Liberty adventure one of the favourites of many fashion stalwarts.

Yet who is actually spending there? Its avant-garde approach to buying multi-brand fashion makes for an almost art gallery-like shopping experience and, while its stock mix has improved, particularly on menswear, its prices remain prohibitively high for many shoppers passing through its doors.

As we report, Liberty is likely to have new owners in a matter of weeks. The management team, which has been leading a repositioning of the business, looks set to stay on. I hope a deal will enable the team to accelerate the process and reinvent this store as an inspirational yet highly profitable indie department store. To do that it needs more of its recent exclusive collaborations coupled with more accessible price points.

At the same time, iconic Dublin department store Arnotts is facing changes of its own. While it might not be an inspirational shopping experience, it’s probably the Republic of Ireland’s most famous store, but has been dragged down by a massive debt burden. This week its banks drafted in consultants to assess the future shape of the business . Their inspiration is certainly needed.

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