The big vision for menswear at Selfridges' London Oxford Street store started with the introduction of the luxury Superbrands area in 2004. But head of menswear David Walker-Smith says the full concept has only been realised following the recent unveiling of the rest of the refurbished menswear offer on the store's first floor.
While the retailer's Superbrands area showcases luxury designer brands such as Burberry Prorsum, Dior Homme and Alexander McQueen in a minimalist, almost reverential display, an extra 20,000 sq ft has now been added to the floor to usher in high street names such as Reiss, All Saints and Topman.
Last month, men's underwear and nightwear were relocated from the ground floor to join the rest of menswear in an area that now measures more than 100,000 sq ft, all dedicated to fashion-conscious male shoppers. Shirts and ties will also move to the first floor at the end of next month.
In the past decade, Selfridges has made its name as a comprehensive brand emporium. But does the introduction of high street concessions signal a change in tack? After all, the power of big brands over male shoppers seems to be waning.
Walker-Smith refutes this suggestion. "We developed Superbrands because we had to jump onto the fashion side to project ourselves into the arena," he says. "But the strategy was always to balance the offer with more high street fashion and casualwear. It gives us more authority in menswear."
So will Selfridges go any further down the high street than Topman? "That's irrelevant - it's not about price points, it's about the concept and attitude of the product," says Walker-Smith. "Our Topman concession sells a mix of core Topman product and the more directional Topman Design. I always wanted to bring Topman into the business. It's been in our store in Birmingham for about two years and has done very well."
Selfridges' menswear refurbishment means that the Spirit casualwear area has tripled in size, while most of the more technical sportswear offer has been dropped. As a result, new names have been introduced and there has been a rethink on the merchandising of existing brands, which now include the likes of Gio-Goi, The North Face, Dockers, Polo Ralph Lauren, Energie, Firetrap, Burberry, DKNY, APC, G-Star, Levi's and French Connection.
Retail design company Brinkworth has created a neon-lit denim area, a sports hall-inspired streetwear area with skateboard park surfaces and fencing, and a retro cinema theme for casual brands. Other areas, such as Levi's goldmine-themed shop-in-shop, have been developed in collaboration with the brands. The overall result is more defined spaces for key labels, better demarcation for the sportswear, streetwear and casualwear sections, and improved signage.
Walker-Smith is delighted with the response. "We've had a phenomenal reaction to Reiss, which opened in November. The G-Star shop-in-shop was the brand's number one store in the world during a two-week period just before Christmas," he claims.
While G-Star is a solid breadwinner, Levi's is a rising star, says Walker-Smith. He adds that the All Saints concession, which was rolled out to all Selfridges' stores after its success in Birmingham, proves the power of partnership. Full Circle is now a core brand with a dedicated area, while Adidas Y-3 is also a strong performer. The Size? footwear concession has been replaced with Offspring, which is also in Selfridges' Manchester Exchange Square store. It brings brands such as Office and Post to the London shop, and adds authority to the footwear offer, says Walker-Smith.
Menswear has also moved more towards own buy because, as Walker-Smith says, "our business is retailing, not real estate". He adds: "There's a strong future in the partnership between retailers and brands - they realise they have to work together. It's important to offer a brand concept. It gives the offer authenticity and a powerful image."
Walker-Smith says he and his team have built the ultimate menswear shopping offer. "We've changed with the needs of our customers. If you look at menswear as a market, you can see the importance of balancing the offer. Where else can you find Roberto Cavalli and Lanvin alongside Topman? Inclusivity is a new concept in fashion, but men want that choice and we've been brave enough to do it."