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Planet, Walton-on-Thames

The youngest of Jacques Vert’s four womenswear fascias unveils its most youthful look yet in Surrey.

Retail guru Mary Portas has her own views on Planet’s latest store. “I like the simplicity of it and the fact it’s on a great street,” she says of the shop, which she officially opened on a chilly morning in November.

The sleek 1,000sq ft shop, in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, aims to reinforce the brand’s positioning as the youngest and most contemporary of parent company Jacques Vert’s four womenswear brands – the others being Jacques Vert, Windsmoor and Precis Petite. Located in the new Heart shopping centre, Planet shares the pedestrianised street with the likes of LK Bennett, Boden and Hobbs, and aims to attract 40-plus female customers.

The shop, created by design firm 20/20, is a far cry from the seven existing Planet stores, offering more space, better lighting and a clean, modern design. The ceiling is eight metres high to give the illusion of even more space, and the shop is deliberately uncluttered for easy navigation.

With a limestone floor, marble accents, chrome fixtures and intelligently positioned mirrors, the shop is a wonder room of reflective surfaces. Even the movable panels behind the mannequins in the window are polished to a high shine. A wide aisle in the middle of the store mimics a catwalk, drawing customers’ attention to a plasma TV showing a film of the brand’s latest range.

Opposite the fitting rooms is an area dedicated to Planet’s growing accessories offer, which has been expanded to include jewellery, gloves and evening bags.

Womenswear managing director Shena MacDonald says there are plans to open “a handful more shops” next year with the same concept, although she does not reveal any locations. MacDonald says the sites are likely to be in towns similar to Walton-on-Thames, with a high proportion of female residents falling into the retailer’s target customer group. “If we can make this work for us commercially, we will roll it out as fast as we can,” she says.

Existing Planet stores and concessions could also be refurbished to include some of the new design elements.

The product offer is a mix of workwear, eveningwear and seasonal pieces and is merchandised mostly on side-facing fixtures, with only key looks front-facing. Visually, product is merchandised to create complete looks. Tops for £39 hang next to £179 embellished dresses, allowing customers to mix and match items.

The fitting rooms at the rear are designed to present a cosier, more intimate atmosphere using softer lighting. The music playing inside the fitting room is also different from that pumped onto the main shop floor, further differentiating the two areas.

As a final added extra, the store is trialling a personal shopping service for the first time to help customers create their own individual looks. “We want to build a close rapport with our customers,” says MacDonald.

The Heart Centre, Walton-on-Thames, KT12

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