If you want to believe the hype then New York’s been feeling deprived since last year’s announcement of the delay of Topshop’s launch, but if you ask anyone in the Lower East Side or Greenwich Village if they feel they have been missing out on trend driven pieces at affordable prices, the answer is no. At the end of the day what they couldn’t find in the bargain galores on Manhattan, mainstream designers were providing them at Target in Queens.
That hasn’t stopped Topshop from rolling out the PR machine though, literally! In the last couple of days vans have been up and down the avenues handing out mystery gift cards and today (Thursday 2nd of April) hopeful shoppers queued for up to two hours to establish the value of these. Quite a few left, when they found out it was only worth $5.
I chose to avoid the morning rush and Kate Moss cutting the red ribbon (okay, I had double booked myself and couldn’t get out of my volunteering stint in Central Park) so turned up at 3pm, four hours after the official opening. As I walked to the store from the nearest subway station (400m) I noticed that Banana Republic was offering all dresses, including their Monogram range, at $98 or less, Steve Madden had a 25% discount, Armani Exchange spend $150 get $50 off and H&M was handing out a magazine. The competition was out in force or at least making the most of a potential increase in footfall.
I would like to point out that I hate queuing despite having lived in the UK for 16 years. It may be polite, but it’s boring and nothing is hardly ever worth the wait. But prepared to eat my words, I walked around the block to join a group of people, who most likely felt that they were waiting in line for the newest and hippest club in town. Well, looking at the security or should I call them bouncers, you couldn’t fault them for thinking so. 45 minutes went and I was almost at the corner of the block with the shop front in sight. Relief! Then out stepped Philip Green, not looking so relaxed. In the meantime I enjoyed a free cup of coffee from Madewell, a denim company, who was giving a royal welcome to their new neighbour by serving high tea. I know, the Americans like to get it right and so often miss the point!
Finally I was in and I would love to say that I was blown away as I have been missing the store at Oxford Circus, but no. First of all, I am bored with the Union Jack (hello, I know you are a British brand), secondly the store felt claustrophobic. American brands may not be as cutting edge as their British cousins, but they are masters at store layouts and unless you are a boutique space offer a sense of luxury! Instead of stepping out for air, after all I didn’t fancy rejoining the queue, I popped down to Topman in the basement. Instantly, I felt better. The floor was clearly split into sections. I particularly liked the s-shaped denim displays and the orange floor fixtures for the designer brands. Worryingly though, everywhere was super tidy and staff were dusting. Four hours after their grand opening? Surely they should be selling or restocking.
I ventured upstairs and had a good look around. Prices were steep, no idea who have been doing their comp shop, but the prices make Zara look like Forever 21. Keen to see the shoe lounge and the new Kate Moss range I passed the tills (no line) and a slightly agitated Philip Green.
I have just had two of my closest friends visiting me. Let’s just say there was at lot of shopping involved, so I feel up to speed on what’s hot and the pricing structure of numerous brands. Nothing quite prepared me for the $600 Kate Moss beaded dress though. I know that Kate is a top mover in the UK, but in the US you rarely see her on the cover. I hung around for 15 minutes to see what people’s reaction would be. No one picked it up.
Blink and you may miss the underwear section. Strange as the Oxford Circus sells 30 pairs of panties a minute, and the pricing is competitive to Victoria Secret. I said a quick farewell to the first floor that is dedicated to the 80s on acid, as well as hair, nail and make over and sought the shoe lounge. The shoe selection does look great. There are some fabulous styles, but hardly a pair under $170. Kit yourself out for Saturday night and you’ve quickly let go of $400. That’s a lot of money, not just during a recession, but also for trend conscious girls who are on a limited budget.
Do I think that Topshop will succeed in New York? Yes, I do. Philip Green is a businessman and he wouldn’t be investing if he didn’t feel he would make a return. But this isn’t a loyal customer base with an ingrown attitude of trends can best be found at Topshop. Space definitely feels limited and the store could quickly look like a jumble sale with too expensive merchandise. As one of my British friends commented when hearing about my New York Topshop experience: “With prices like that it’s cheaper to fly home and go shopping”. I tend to agree. Let’s hope that NY’s students don’t all spend their summer in London, making the most of the strong dollar and paying homage to the real Topshop.