Next has slashed styles by 15% at its new store in Bluewater, in an effort to declutter the shopfloor and emphasise its more youthful, aspirational styling.
The 26,000 sq ft store at Bluewater in Kent features 85% of the new blueprint for future stores. Next will roll out the storefit to 100 shops by next February, including a new store at Meadowhall in Sheffield that will be the first to feature the entire new look.
Designed by Dalziel & Pow, 60 of the stores will receive significant elements of the shopfit, while the other 40 will be given a wallpaper-and-paint makeover.
At Bluewater, the traditional wall that runs through the centre of Next stores has been removed to open up the floor, allowing customers to circulate more easily. Both the men's and women's sections feature dedicated denim areas with graphic fit guides. Black arches sit at the entrance to each department, which have been given their own colours and wallpapers.
The women's area is more glamorous, with metallic print and geometric pattern wallpapers. Menswear has a steely appearance with red and khaki shades on the walls, while the baby area has a softer look. The wooden floors have been replaced by white and black ceramic tiling.
The refit also extends to the in-store soundtrack, which has been revamped to include more rock, indie, soul and younger breakthrough acts.
Next has upped the amount of mannequins in store to communicate its more aspirational styling. The Bluewater shop features 23 mannequins in womenswear, 15 in men's and 17 in kidswear, with a further 55 busts used throughout the store.
However, Teather & Greenwood analyst David Stoddart said he did not think a refurbishment alone would help to reverse Next's sales. "Customers don't buy the storefit, they buy the product," he said. "The new look is not revolutionary, but it doesn't need to be. It needs to help the customer see the product."
"It's quite sparkly and certainly looks a lot more upper-class. Compared with New Look, which is aimed at much younger shoppers, Next looks a bit older and I like the fact that it is less cluttered."
Julie Tapp, housewife
"I like it - it's very modern and spacious. The best thing is that it looks more varied now and also younger. On the downside, the shop now looks like the rest of the high street."
Maxine Evans, housewife
"I shop at Next regularly - the personality of the store has changed a lot since it was refurbished and it is much easier to get around. The clothes look more fashionable and so does the store."
Lisa Newman, housewife
"It looks a lot more sophisticated now and I'm sure that will help to draw people in. I'm tempted to say that the new store design is a bit too young-looking, but I'm here and I'm 58 years old."
Terry Charlesworth, retired
"The store looks a lot better than before and I really like the new layout, but it does look as though it's aimed at younger shoppers now."
Ann Jenner, retired
THE EXPERT VIEW
Karl McKeever, brand director of visual merchandising consultancy Visual Thinking, gives his views on Next's Bluewater store.
"I was struck by how the new design has an 'off the peg' feel, much like the product Next sells. Shoppers could be forgiven for thinking they'd seen something similar before.
"It was billed as a bold move, working with an 'edgy' external agency to create a fresh concept. But it's easy to imagine the brief saying: 'Make us look like River Island/Zara/H&M/M&S - oh, and don't forget we're Next.'
"In my opinion, the result lacks originality. Next has just replaced its own tired look with inspiration and VM ideas from other stores.
"Should we be surprised? No. Big businesses are often risk averse by nature. The bigger the business the greater the caution, until the problem is so big that innovation takes hold.
"It may help to boost sales, but only in the short term. The look is dating fast - by the time Next get around to rolling it out, it may be past its best. Only time will tell how will it work in smaller market towns and secondary malls. But it had better get on with the roll-out fast."