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Hit or Miss: menswear autumn 18

Fenwich canon moring (18 of 61)

Drapers’ secret shopper tests menswear retailers at the Lexicon Bracknell

Drapers’ secret shopper went undercover at the Lexicon to score retailers out of 25, analysing their menswear product offer, store presentation, customer service, value for money and shopping experience.

The Lexicon opened last September, so most of the stores have new formats and fresh layouts, and generally achieved high marks for presentation. However, this season showed that no matter how pretty your store, the simplest of things can ruin the shopping experience.

The biggest issue that arose was customer service – or, at some stores, the lack of it. Retailers must place more emphasis on creating welcoming environments through the presence of approachable and helpful staff. In today’s competitive retail climate, a hello and a smile can go a long way.

This autumn, several retailers played it too safe in terms of product. Businesses need to provide a point of difference in their collections to attract customers and give them something they cannot get elsewhere.

Stores were visited on 8 October.

Read on to discover out who stood out and who lagged behind.

Stores:

Fat Face: 22/25

Superdry: 22/25

Charles Tyrwhitt: 21.5/25

River Island: 20/25

Burton: 19/25

Jack Wills: 18/25

Primark: 17/25

Joules: 15.5/25

Next: 15.5/25

Topman: 15.5/25

Marks & Spencer: 15/25

New Look: 14.5/25

H&M: 11.5/25

Fatface menswear autumn 18

Fatface menswear autumn 18

Fat Face

A lovely store, good service and strong products make for a great experience

22/25

Product 4.5/5
Presentation 4.5/5
Customer service 4.5/5
Value for money 4/5
Shopping experience 4.5/5

A large window display in this Fat Face store features cotton plants and shows the retailer’s “from plant to production” process, which is intriguing. Inside, the back of the window display further explains the Better Cotton Initiative, highlighting Fat Face’s on-trend sustainable credentials.

Inside, the store is full of character and feels distinctly Fat Face. The design and fittings create a unique point of difference that is felt as soon as you walk in.

There is a rugged, beachy feel to the store, thanks to its iron fixtures and repurposed railway sleeper fittings, but these are presented in a smart and premium way. The store is neat and tidy throughout, and it is a pleasure to browse.

A central platform displaying female and male mannequins in appealing outfits helps to divide the space and shows off key product.

The customer service at this store is great. I am greeted pleasantly by different staff members and they continue to check up on me. They offer advice in a friendly way that never feels obtrusive.

The menswear area is large, and the product feels much more thought out than that of competitor Joules.

The collection is wide ranging but remains strongly on brand, and there are several pieces that are unique to this retailer. I spot five colours of chinos, alongside corduroy trousers, cargo pants and three fits of denim – a clear sign declares the jeans as new and succinctly explains the fits.

In terms of the outerwear offer, a sturdy check-lined parka is reasonably priced at £115, and a chunky puffa-style jacket is also good value at £89.

Hoodies, printed and embroidered T-shirts, and the retailer’s signature over-the-head sweater, the Airlie, are all here, but smarter pieces such as a good-quality workwear jacket-style blazer, well priced at £75, elevate and broaden the range.

There is a very pleasant mustard jumper that catches my eye (£45), but the material is already badly pulled while it hangs on the rail, which is off-putting.

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Superdry menswear autumn 18

Superdry menswear autumn 18

Superdry

A unique product mix and stellar service create a winning store

22/25

Product 4.5/5
Presentation 4.5/5
Customer service 4.5/5
Value for money 4/5
Shopping experience 4.5.5

Superdry’s shopfront is open, but well-styled mannequins just inside show off some of the hero items and draw me in.

The brand’s signature shopfit creates an engaging environment. Product is packed in from floor to ceiling, but it does not feel overwhelming, as the mannequins, signage and displays help to break up the space.

The collection is varied and nods to trends, but is also full of unique items you can only find at Superdry. It has the biggest outerwear offer I see all day. A camouflage-print puffa jacket with yellow shoulder patches and a fleece-lined hood is good value at £129, while a similar style but in a darker camouflage is a more muted take on the trend. Similarly, there are heavily logo-ed and branded pieces mixed with some that are more pared back, which caters to a wide set of shoppers.

Prices can be on the high side (quilted jackets for £199, parkas for £149, hoodies for £54.99), but the products are well made, in good-quality fabrics, and offer acceptable value for money.

It is good to see the Sport collection situated prominently at the front of this store, complete with a dynamic running mannequin. It offers a unique spread of functional and technical sportswear in bold designs, and bright colours.

Staff are very chatty, and several greet me and check up on me in a way that seems genuinely friendly.

Denim fits range from skinny to tapered. Fits are indicated by coloured labels and embroidery on the waistband, which makes finding the product I want very simple.

Seating outside the fitting area adds a premium touch. Changing rooms are large and comfortable – although the floors could do with a sweep – and are manned by helpful staff.

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Charles Tyrwhitt

A smart environment with a strong product offer and service to match

21.5/25

Product 4/5
Presentation 5/5
Customer service 4.5/5
Value for money 4/5
Shopping experience 4/5

This store is superbly presented.

The windows feature interesting and unique displays and mannequins are stylishly dressed. Inside, the shop is impeccably neat and tidy.

Engaging screens, a lovely seating area, appealing campaign imagery right next to related product and fun neon lights make the store a pleasure to shop. It even smells like an expensive scented candle is burning somewhere. All of this combines to create an elevated, premium atmosphere that feels modern and fresh.

Signage is simple and informative. Shirt fits and collar options are explained clearly, and the signature wall of shirts, which has been messy and overwhelming at other Charles Tyrwhitt stores in the past, is neatly organised. However, some items do not have price tags.

The customer service is also good. I’m greeted when I arrive, and staff are engaging with other customers around me. When I ask the price of a product, the staff member knows it without checking.

Although Charles Tyrwhitt is known for shirting, the smart-casual range really shines during this visit.

A peak-lapel blue and grey checked crombie coat (£229), unlined navy wool blazer (£179.95) and thick roll-neck jumper (£69.95) are great buys. Good-quality and luxe-feel fabrics mostly justify the premium prices.

The suiting offer is not particularly broad, but I do see a pin-striped option and two designs in a subtle check – enough variety to offer something different, while being well targeted at the core customer.

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River island autumn 18

River island autumn 18

River Island

Product with a point of difference is boosted by a pleasant experience

20/25

Product 4/5
Presentation 4/5
Customer service 4/5
Value for money 4/5
Shopping experience 4/5

it feels like River Island has selected its best product for its window displays. Different textures and colours draw me in – cream, red and orange tones mix with fake shearling and patterned wools across well-styled, layered outfits that are topped with accessories. Unique strobe-like light fixtures in the windows also catch my eye.

Inside, there is a clear sign directing me to menswear upstairs, and another mannequin wears one of the collection’s key items – a puffa jacket with unusual reflective panels (£75) – which grabs my attention.

Service is good. Staff greet me when I enter and check on me twice, once when leaving the changing room. It is simple, but compared with competitors such as Topman, this makes a big difference and really improves my experience.

Unlike other samey collections, River Island’s has personality and features unique products – it has given itself a point of difference.

A crombie coat comes in a lovely mini-houndstooth check or a simpler flecked grey wool – both are £90. They offer a pleasing difference compared with the standard black and camel versions seen elsewhere.

A leopard print bomber jacket with bold gold trim (£70), an unusual chenille jumper (£35), and all-over floral printhoodies and tracksuits (£35) are equally unique, and offer customers something they cannot find elsewhere.

Tailoring, rather than being sectioned off,is blended into the rest of the collection. There are a good selection of tailored trousers and blazers. Generally, price tags fairly reflect the quality and construction, and offer acceptable value for money.

Unfortunately, several items are badly creased and grubby – one pair of trousers is covered in fluff and threads, which cheapens them and is not appealing.

Like the store, the changing rooms are well appointed. There are individual seats, a large main mirror and extra rear-view mirror.

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Burton

A focus on smarter product is a good fit in an engaging store

19/25

Product 4/5
Presentation 4/5
Customer service 3/5
Value for money 4/5
Shopping experience 4/5

Burton’s strong windows accentuate its focus on the smarter end of menswear, but still display a variety of items. The large campaign images are also effective at highlighting product.

The staircase up to the menswear floor shows off more products on mannequins and promote a deal on its knitwear. There is a good use of imagery and signage throughout – from lifestyle shots to denim fit guides and deals. In contrast to competitors such as H&M, this is engaging and piques my interest, as well as guiding me through the store.

It is a shame that there is no seating in the changing room, nor a hook to hang my coat or bag –only a rail for items on hangers. I had to put my belongings on the floor.

Staff, who are busy serving and doing tasks at the till, are friendly when approached but not particularly attentive. They do not check on me after leaving the changing room despite me being the only customer there at the time.

The retailer’s focus on smarter styles is clever and well targeted, and gives Burton a slightly different offer. Tailoring is strong. Some unusual fabrics, such as windowpane checks on £75 blazers (good value for money for their construction), and patterned linings add a point of difference. Although most suits remain the standard single-breasted style, tweaks such as peak lapels are nice to see.

Deals such as two for £35 on knitwear (generally around £20-£22 each) and jeans at two for £45 (generally around £30 each) also offer good value for money.

There is not a particularly large outerwear offer. However, a crombie coat with peak lapels (£69) stands out from competitors’ versions, and is good value, while a dark green puffa (£65) with bonded zips is very similar to Jack Wills’ much pricier £129 version.

Some items in the store are badly creased, which is very off-putting.

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Jack wills menswear autumn 18

Jack wills menswear autumn 18

Jack Wills

Acceptable product is let down by confusing Sales and branding

18/25

Product 2.5/5
Presentation 4/5
Customer service 4/5
Value for money 3.5/5
Shopping experience 4/5

Staff greet me as I enter and leave, which creates a welcoming and approachable atmosphere, and I see them providing a good level of service to other customers.

The window features one menswear mannequin in a black puffa and black jeans, which does not pull me in. However, the store looks good. Its signature clubhouse-style decor appeals, and screens showing off attractive lifestyle imagery are engaging.

Much of the store appears to be in Sale, and it is hard to know what is and is not reduced. Autumnal items have vague (and quite cheap-looking) paper signage declaring “25% off selected coats” and “25% off selected knits”, and it is not clear which items are reduced, or why, when they appear to be new-season stock.

Overall, the product is fairly uninspiring, and focuses on staples in classic colours. A mannequin in a dark green puffa catches my eye, and there are variations on the padded jacket, including an orange version, ranging from £90 to a pricey £129.

The brand’s signature branded products are here in abundance, and, oddly, feature more than five different types of branding. From a modern font, to JW initials, to two different types of bird motifs, the branding feels quite disjointed.

There are some nice sporty cut-and-sew items and technical jackets that feel a bit fresher, but they are lost on Sale rails.

Jack Wills’ higher price point is usually justified by its elevated quality and is acceptable value for money. A thick parka (£179) is pricey but is very warm and well made, but £69.95 for a fairly thin cable-knit jumper seems high.

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Primark menswear autumn 18

Primark menswear autumn 18

Primark

Nods to trends at bargain prices within an improved, but still messy store

17/25

Product 3.5/5
Presentation 3/5
Customer service 3/5
Value for money 4/5
Shopping experience 3.5/5

The three menswear mannequins in the windows are disappointing compared with the more interesting mix of colours and patterns in Primark’s womenswear windows. All three wear blue jeans, which does not show the breadth of the collection. However, it is pleasing to see the diversity of models used in imagery wrapping the store front.

The Lexicon features the retailer’s new store format, which moves away from the standard warehouse style of other Primark stores. Entering on the women’s floor, it feels much more engaging and in line with competitors’ shops. However, although much of the womenswear floor is nicely merchandised into easy-to-shop outfits and hero items, this does not seem to have been carried over to men’s as successfully, which is a shame.

Neon lights, coloured walls and bold graphics go some way to divide the menswear space into easier-to-navigate sections. Appealing campaign imagery is used throughout, but, disappointingly, I cannot find much of the product featured.

As usual, floors are littered, tables are teeming with product and rails are jam packed. In several areas rails have additional smaller rails above them. Hanging gloves and hats above outerwear is a smart seasonal upsell, but the amount of product – which is often fairly messy – is quite overwhelming.

Bargain price points still set Primark apart – £2 T-shirts, £8 plaid shirts, £12 side-stripe trousers, £23 Borg-lined denim jackets and £25 puffa jackets all nod to the season’s biggest trends.

Although I do not see any staff on the shop floor, the fitting rooms are manned by a smiley assistant. The large cubicles have big seats and rear-view mirrors, but a stain marks my curtain.

Clearly advertised free wi-fi is good, but there is no music and the eerie silence in the store is a let-down.

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Joules menswear autumn 18

Joules menswear autumn 18

Joules

Points of scruffiness detract from an attractive store and helpful staff

15.5/25

Product 2.5/5
Presentation 3.5/5
Customer service 3/5
Value for money 3/5
Shopping experience 3.5/5

Joules wins points for its windows. Oversized price tags hang around the necks of mannequins to highlight its Sale – this is a more inventive approach than the standard sign stuck to a window.

Brightly coloured autumn leaves add seasonal decoration.

Inside, more clever visual merchandising techniques are put to good use. A male mannequin poses dynamically on a display table, which is eye catching and effectively signposts where the menswear department is located. Unfortunately, the mannequin’s head is badly cracked and chipped, which cheapens the effect substantially.

Similarly, the paper Sale signs in this area are ripped and dog-eared, which looks very cheap. These elements let down an otherwise smart, pleasant store.

An area dominated by an oversized yellow sofa at the entrance to the changing rooms is a good addition, and feels premium. The use of forward-facing rails means some items are hidden behind others and are hard to reach.

The staff are chirpy and helpful to shoppers, and one member greets me.

However, the menswear area in this branch is very small and the product is therefore limited – there is only one style of chino and one style of denim jeans available.

There is very little choice, which is a shame considering the fact that several other solo male shoppers enter the store during my visit.

The season’s must-have padded puffa coat is here (£89.95), alongside four different types of gilet and a fleece-lined quilted jacket (£99.95) – they are all sturdy, high-quality options that justify the higher price points.

However, there is not anything special or standout at Joules this season. Customers might struggle to find a reason to shop here over competitors’ stores.

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Next

A good product offer is not allowed to shine in this messy, neglected store

15.5/25

Product 4/5
Presentation 2.5/5
Customer service 2/5
Value for money 3.5/5
Shopping experience 3.5/5

Pops of colour differentiate Next’s windows from its competitors. Signs detailing some of its prices are a nice touch, albeit a little small. Inside, potted plants, unusual rugs and seating areas attempt a more premium feel. Unfortunately, the store is quite rough around the edges and feels a little neglected in parts. Although campaign imagery appears throughout, the models are at a beach and wearing the summer line.

Some rails are almost empty, while other displays are crammed and messy. Pieces are missing price tags and inconsistent sizes are out on display. A lot of items are very creased and appear dirty: dust, fluff and stray hairs. The logically arranged collection is good but is not shown off to its best.

There is good variety of pieces across a broad price architecture. For example, plain, striped and checked shirts are priced at £20, £22, £25 in different colours. A rail of basic T-shirts – £6 each, two for £10 or three for £15 is also good value.

There is also a good outerwear offer, but a crombie coat at £110 is more expensive than a similar style (£99) at M&S. The Next version is already quite dusty and does not seem as good value for money.

There is a good spread of tailoring with a point of difference – £56 for a blazer or £85 for the suit is good value. But the collection does not shine as brightly as in past visits.

The changing rooms are well appointed, but the floor is littered, and no staff are on the shop floor or in the changing room.

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Topman menswear autumn 18

Topman menswear autumn 18

Topman

On-trend product in a pleasant space is let down by lack of service

15.5/25

Product 4/5
Presentation 4/5
Customer service 1/5
Value for money 3.5/5
Shopping experience 3/5

Topman’s window features three men’s mannequins, and two wear puffa jackets – the season’s key outerwear style. However, the overall display is not particularly eye catching and does not do justice to the product inside.

A clear sign directs me upstairs where I am greeted by a mannequin wearing a camel crombie overcoat over an orange hoodie. The thin crombie is £80, which is fairly steep, but details such as fake leather piping on the pockets elevate the piece. It is nice to see other variations on the crombie trend, such as a textured version (£80) and a longer-length style (£85), which offers a point of difference.

The layout makes the collection easy to shop. Full outfits are displayed together, alongside footwear and accessories. Well-targeted imagery directly next to the related product makes shopping effortless.

The addition of the Champion brand to the offer is attractive, but more could be done to highlight this area – the branded £65 hoodies hang right next to Topman’s basic £25 version.

The store is bright and clean, and has fun touches such as a neon changing room sign. However, the lack of service diminishes the otherwise pleasant experience. I am the only customer but the member of staff, who is the only other person on the shop floor for the entirety of my visit, does not acknowledge me. A simple hello would make a difference.

Many of the season’s trends are ticked off: different styles of puffa jacket include a directional wet-look fabric (£70), checked tailored trousers come in many colours and scales of pattern, and sporty stripes cover almost everything.

T-shirts with velvet flocked graphics on the front and back for £18 are acceptable value for money, but thin, unlined trousers are pricey at £40.

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Marks and spencer menswear autumn 18

Marks and spencer menswear autumn 18

Marks & Spencer

A hit and miss experience, where some strong product gets lost in a large store

15/20

Product 3.5/5
Presentation 3.5/5
Customer service 2/5
Value for money 3.5/5
Shopping experience 2.5/5

Signage on the windows declares “must-have coats”, but the mannequins and imagery do not show off the retailer’s outerwear to full advantage.

When I enter there are not any signs directing me upstairs to menswear, and the lack of music lends a strange atmosphere.

Upstairs, six mannequins promote an acceptable variety of pieces, but corresponding products are not close by. I finally find one mannequin’s £69 gilet in the opposite corner of the store.

There are some standout items and the outerwear is good. A thick and soft camel crombie at £99, a mini-houndstooth coat (£99), a ribbed pea coat (£99), and lots of different padded and puffa styles are all well made, and represent decent value.

Sturdy jeans for just £15, a fleece-lined plaid shacket (£45) and a lovely shawl-neck tuxedo blazer for just £80 are also good value.

Elsewhere there is the usual samey sea of product – particularly trousers – and the difficulty with a store this size is that the layout is quite inconsistent. There are some displays that are sparsely stocked – a table with good-value pure cotton jumpers for £19.50 looks strange with just a handful of products spread across it, while a rail of pricey and fairly basic £149 blazers are so jam packed some are dangling off their hangers.

The changing rooms are pleasant. There is a large, comfy stool, a big mirror and another for the rear view, and a proper door to close, rather than a curtain. The floor is quite dusty, though.

The changing rooms are unmanned and I only see two members of staff on the shop floor during my visit. None approach me, although I do see staff working at the tills.

The store is fresh and modern, and on-brand imagery is used well. However, because there is no music, it feels odd being left alone to browse in such a large and silent store.

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New Look

A fairly average store that offers fairly average product

14.5/25

Product 3/5
Presentation 3/5
Customer service 2.5/5
Value for money 3/5
Shopping experience 3/5

I do not spot any sign of menswear in New Look’s windows, which is disappointing. On entering the menswear area I am greeted by two fairly dull menswear mannequins wearing checked shirts.

The shopping experience is fine but nothing special, and there is not a lot here that shows a unique New Look personality or point of difference.

New Look makes use of some good images of models, particularly in the denim area. However, the actual display of products is uninspiring.

The store is fairly tidy, but the product is spread quite thinly across the space, and there are several sparse rails.

A standard black puffa jacket ticks off the season’s outerwear trend and is well priced at £22.99, while £59.99 for a crombie coat and military-style wool coat is acceptable, and is at the more affordable end of the spectrum for the level of quality. The outerwear offer is fairly standard, but there are some decent transitional items, such as fake shearling-lined denim jackets for £39.99.

There are a handful of trend items, such as embroidered slogan T-shirts (£12.99) and side-stripe checked trousers, but they are very thin for the £27.99 price tag.

I hear two members of staff engaging a customer at the till in a lively conversation, but no one approaches me.

There is a clear sign directing me to the unmanned changing rooms. Inside my cubicle there is no seat and no hook for my belongings, only a rail for items on hangers, so once again I have to put my things on the floor. The “take it” and “leave it” signs on this rail are a nice touch, but have led shoppers to leave items in the cubicles, which looks messy.

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H&m menswear autumn 18

H&m menswear autumn 18

H&M

Some good product is let down by a neglected store and no customer service

11.5/25

Product 3.5/5
Presentation 2/5
Customer service 0/5
Value for money 3.5/5
Shopping experience 2.5/5

In the window, menswear mannequins in black and grey do not catch my eye. Two are wearing the same black pea coat. On entering the menswear area, the first display correlates to what is in the windows. This is helpful, but the product remains uninspiring.

The store is modern and airy, and has some smart fixtures as a foundation, but it is what is done with them that loses points.

The first cluster of menswear rails is a mess – parts are tightly packed, so items are squashed, creased and untidy, while other rails are bare, featuring just a few products. A discarded coat is flung on the display – bad, considering it is the entrance and it is still early in the morning.

This messiness continues throughout, and the randomness of the layout is confusing.

Some items are arranged by trended outfits but, beyond this, there seems less logic. For example, rather than grouping outerwear together, it is littered throughout – several different styles of puffa jacket are found across the store. Smart shirts and blazers hang next to random casual items and basics.

Some displays are bursting, but others are empty: a mannequin wears standout side-stripe trousers (£19.99), but there is only one pair on display.

The sea of samey product and lack of imagery to catch the eye or divide spaces makes it quite dull.

I do not come across a single member of staff, even while trying items on. The item I take to the changing room turns out to be on a broken hanger.

Among the repetitive products, there are good pieces. A grey checked coat and a yellow puffa jacket – both £39.99 – are good value, and variations on graphic-covered streetwear-inspired T-shirts and hoodies stand out.

Readers' comments (1)

  • The Lexicon opened in September 2017.

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