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Theory, London

The US brand hopes its Westbourne Park standalone will be the first of several in the capital.

London’s first significant snowfall of 2008 wasn’t the most fortuitous of weather for US brand Theory’s opening weekend at its new store in Westbourne Grove, west London. However, sales staff were still smiling as spring stock had been greeted positively by customers.

Theory had been waiting patiently for a store to come up in this area, one of London’s upmarket shopping villages, for the past 12 months. When a unit did become available it moved fast, signing the lease on January 22 and remodelling the site, a former jewellers, ready for opening on April 3.

Theory’s European president and chief operating officer Ashley Potter says: “Our showroom is just around the corner from this store. Notting Hill has always been an important neighbourhood for us because of the atmosphere and the type of stores that are already in the area.”

“We will be looking to open other stores in similar areas of London that have this upmarket village-type feel. We recently just missed out on a unit in Brompton Cross in South Kensington, for example.”
Theory’s store is adjacent to Comptoir des Cotonniers, which is owned by Fast Retail, the Japanese company that is Theory’s largest shareholder, and is close to local designer independent chain Question Air. Its double-sided shopfront allows plenty of room to display outfits on six raised mannequins. At 625sq ft of trading space, the store is a lot smaller than the brand’s US flagship in New York’s meatpacking district, which trades from more than 6,000sq ft.

Potter says: “What is the same is that each of our stores has a consistent DNA, such as the running rails and the way we use mannequins, but all retain some point of difference. For example, the 1960s leather chairs in this store are all unique found pieces.”

The Westbourne Grove unit is a white box with light-oak flooring laid in a herringbone pattern. The back of the store is raised and two mannequins breach the steps into the rear. At the front, directly behind the windows, is the till area with a relief wall in black sporting the Theory logo. A useful open table fixture allows footwear and T-shirts to be laid flat.

The London store joins a concession in Harvey Nichols in London as Theory’s first foray into retail in the UK. The brand has steadily been growing its wholesale business and now has about 60 accounts including independent designer chains Flannels and Cruise. Potter says that the brand is on track with its UK growth plans, recording double-digit sales growth over the past year.

“I think we will learn a great deal from this store about how to trade a Theory shop in a neighbourhood environment and I am certain it will help us make decisions about other sites in London in the future,” he adds. “But we are in no rush and will hold out for the areas that are absolutely right for the brand, much in the way we have with this one.”

Theory 237 Westbourne Grove, London W11

Essentials

1997
Year in which Theory was founded

625sq ft
Trading space of Theory in Westbourne Grove

4
Number of Theory stores in Europe. Others are in Paris, Monaco and Athens

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