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Palace coup

The opening of Enfield's Palace Exchange shopping centre and a £3 million refurbishment have given department store Pearsons a new lease of life

Enfield in north London is not known as one of the capital's shopping epicentres, but the new Palace Exchange mall has boosted the area's retail potential and provided big benefits for independent department store Pearsons.

Last autumn the retailer embarked on a £3 million refit, increasing selling space from 63,000 sq ft to 68,000 sq ft and introducing new own-buy brands. The revamp, by Jamieson Smith Associates, opened up an atrium between the ground and first floors, taking the store's focus away from the high street and onto the Palace Exchange area at the rear. What used to be the store's back door is now its main entrance, facing Palace Exchange, and the cosmetics area - with new brands including Chanel, Benefit, YSL and Molton Brown - fronts onto the mall.

The ground floor has been given a younger fashion profile thanks to new concessions Coast, Principles, Warehouse and Faith, plus Per Lui for menswear. On the first floor, concessions now include Hobbs, Phase Eight, Episode, Ann Harvey, Kaliko and Jane Shilton.

The own buy, accounting for some 40% of the fashion offer, features French Connection, Timberland, Betty Barclay and Gerry Weber. Own buy menswear includes Timberland, Marc O'Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, G-Star, Ben Sherman and Levi's, while Ted Baker and DKNY now feature in the lingerie offer.

The project was completed in the first week of November and, according to managing director Ian Ryden, trading was up 20% to 30% like-for-like during the rest of the month. "We've shifted to a younger profile and a higher price point, but did not want to alienate regular customers, so we kept core brands and added younger fashion."

Apart from the opportunity provided by the new Palace Exchange, there were compelling trading reasons for the change. "We had to take action - last Christmas trading volumes were up 10%, but value was down 14%," says Ryden.

The shopfit, which is uniform across all own-buy product and concessions, includes flexible fixtures in glass and satinised metal. Feature lighting gives areas their own personalities.

Structurally, all internal walls have been removed. Air conditioning has been installed, together with a new sprinkler system, rewiring and a new camera and security system.

The new concessions have boosted sales, and sales of own-buy ranges have also risen. Ryden says: "We are more disciplined on own buy, buying in-depth and giving each brand space. Menswear sales were up 40% in November on less space than before the refit. The accessories area is more than 100% up like-for-like. It proves that if we present our own buy as well as the concessions present themselves, it works."

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