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Peacocks' new roost

A new fashion concept store signals a change of tack for Peacocks as it strives to move beyond its value image

Value chain Peacocks upped its fashion credentials with the opening of its first new concept store at the Arndale Centre in Manchester last month. The 7,000 sq ft shop is further evidence of Peacocks' move towards becoming a serious young fashion player on the high street.

In prime shopping centre territory and adjacent to retail fashion big guns New Look, Topshop and River Island, the site is a change from the business's usual value retailer haunts and marks Peacocks out as a true fashion chain. The company hopes the new concept store's quirky redesign will draw in a trendy young crowd.

Peacocks creative controller Rob Lindop says the shopfit, which will be rolled out to all new stores, would better enable it to compete with high street rivals by raising its trend credentials and creating a "city centre look". Of the design, he says: "The idea was to come up with something clean and simple, but with a bit of theatre too. It was vital that each department was clearly branded and merchandised, with individual, quirky pieces across all categories."

Peacocks kept costs down by enlisting the expertise of its in-house design team, which found one-off furniture pieces - such as antique wardrobes and chandeliers - on eBay and at trade fairs. Each subsequent new store to be fitted with the fashion-led concept, including Southampton and Cardiff, will have its own unique personality embodied by distinctive pieces of furniture.

The result, as seen in the Arndale Centre, is a clean, clearly branded and merchandised store, embellished with shiny chandeliers and eclectic fixtures and furniture. The white ceilings and walls are offset by brick and wallpapered areas, with wardrobes and large cash desks in curved, acrylic fixtures.

The store's biggest department, womenswear, mostly uses two types of merchandising: outfit building and product blocking. Trend-led outfits are teamed with accessories and footwear, with some product housed in antique wardrobes, while basics such as T-shirts are blocked together to highlight the ranges' colours.

The decor is a key feature in the womenswear department. The matt lilac wallpaper was inspired by 19th century arts and crafts designer William Morris, and produced especially for Peacocks. The paper was then strategically peeled back in certain areas to suggest a vintage, slightly archaic effect.

Lindop says one of his main objectives was to present a coherent lingerie offer in the new-look store. With its black and white colour theme, the space has a boudoir feel to it, in contrast to the rest of the shopfit.

Footwear also has its own distinctive look and feel, with chrome and acrylic fixtures and a futuristic, curved shelving unit. "We need to give flexibility to our footwear offer because some shoes, such as flip-flops, look better hanging off hooks, while others are better highlighted on shelves, such as cork wedges," Lindop explains.

The store's menswear department displays product on tall scaffolding, alongside decorations such as tyres and large graphics. "It gives the menswear department a focal point and grungier feel," says Lindop. Distressed graphics feature alongside clean, stencilled slogans in black and white, with phrases such as "Property of Urban Spirit" and "Fashion for the Masses".

Similar scaffolding is also used in the kidswear area, where age ranges are clearly segregated. Peacocks' boyswear line has been rebranded from Street Gear to Urban Outlaws, more in line with its menswear brand Urban Spirit.

Managing director Tim Bettley is impressed with the outcome and says the store's sales to date are in line with company expectations. Some elements in the Arndale Centre shop have proved so successful that he plans to introduce them to the chain's Bristol store, where the concept was first trialled.

Bettley adds that visitors to the Manchester store cannot believe they are walking into Peacocks. "The shop exemplifies how far Peacocks has come. It's totally different to how the brand looked 10 years ago and I'm really proud of that. We're a fashion retailer now. We can compete with the high street."

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