Genuine and wannabe boardsports aficionados will no doubt hotfoot it down to Quiksilver, but does the store’s new look stand out in this busy shopping area?
There is a kind of shopper who may just be a little vain and thinks that if he or she wears appropriate clothing then the body beautiful will be assured. In some instances, it may be the case that the raw material is already pretty good with or without the right garments.
For the vast majority, however, the unpalatable truth is that it’s a matter of gilding the lily. While these individuals might like to imagine tackling a black run in Gstaad or riding that wave in Waikiki, the closest they’ll get to doing these activities is wearing the clothes associated with the lifestyle.
This is probably the core customer, young and not so young, who enters the Quiksilver store in London’s Covent Garden. And what confronts the would-be taut body is a new format from the boardsports brand, which was first unveiled in its Regent Street flagship a few days before and is due to be rolled out across the chain, according to the store manager.
It’s an odd thing that the rough-and-ready ethos of this particular set finds potent UK expression in Covent Garden, which may once have been home of the alternative but is now a must-visit for the well-mannered and affluent tourist horde. That said, there were plenty of visitors on the last Monday afternoon of October, just as most Londoners, or so it appeared, were busy getting ready to be pumpkin-bearing witches and wizards.
Key looks and merchandise mix
Most surfing types wear T-shirts, even when they’re crouching on a board with a massive wave about to engulf them. With this in mind, Quiksilver has a large selection of the category, the majority of which have some mention of the brand printed on them in faded inks, because you don’t want anything looking too new. Prices for these are around £30 – in line with similar retailers in the area.
After this, the selection for men is wide and, because this really is a lifestyle brand, it’s possible to kit yourself out from head to foot in Quiksilver, complete with matching watches, wallets and sunglasses. There’s even underwear – which does look ambitiously priced at between £19 and £25 for a single pair of pants. That said, while looking around the shop, a silver fox dude (aka an aging surfer wannabe) walked in and enquired about male foundationwear, so you never can tell.
There is also Roxy, which is the women’s range. It looks in many ways like the men’s range, just more shaped.
Overall, this is a mid-market offer and not as expensive as you might at first expect. There is the mild problem in Covent Garden, however, that there are a fair number of retailers offering merchandise in a similar vein. The competition in this particular arena is hot and Fat Face is not too distant… Score 6/10 Visual merchandising The glass case containing watches next to the cash desk is new for Quiksilver and sales have picked up as a result, according to the store manager. But in truth, much of what is on view has the ring of familiarity about it. This is not perhaps to say it’s bad, just that there is little to surprise.
Faux rebellion is a standard trope in this neck of the woods, so the blackboard informing shoppers that “If you cant rock ’n roll don’t f*****n come” comes as little surprise. Equally, “The sun is my spotlight, the wave is my stage” also rings a little hollow when the store’s location is taken into account.
No matter, the rest of the shop is about aged wooden tables and benches with laid stock, while around the perimeter is dense merchandising. There is also a TV screen above the cash desk where sporting types tell you about their prowess. This is a good iteration of a retail attitude to life that you may have encountered before. The windows – two of them – could perhaps do with a little more pizzazz.
Disarmingly honest is perhaps the best description of the staff at this store. To an idle enquiry about how things were going, your correspondent was informed that the store was a mite short on best-sellers because the “year end” was imminent and deliveries would probably begin again in earnest once this hurdle had been cleared. It remains unclear whether this is a good or bad thing as the obvious advantage of a store being filled with clothes that no one else has purchased is that if you do buy you’ll be on your own.
The store was tidy and the stock was being examined by shoppers, but staff managed successfully to keep everything shipshape.
Quite a lot about this store does appeal, whether it’s the wooden floors or the black ceiling raft that ensures you look at the merchandise in front of you rather than allowing your gaze to stray upwards. The mid-shop space is generous, encouraging browsing, and means that if there are more than a couple of people shopping then you won’t keep running into them.
The reservation would have to be the term ‘concept’ store. This is a term, as a colleague observed, that is bandied about a fair amount, when what is really meant is a good shopfit. If you can overlook this, then there is a lot to commend about this shop and in locations other than Covent Garden it would probably stand out.
Would I buy?
Lead me to that wave, I’ll jump on a surfboard and things will go wrong from there. If I did so, then Quiksilver would be among the places I’d look for something to wear. For quotidian wear, however, the field of vision would be somewhat wider and Quiksilver might have to take a backseat.
Quiksilver’s new-look store in Covent Garden is good as far as it goes, but many others cover the same territory and are equally as successful. If you’re looking to be different and to embrace a sun-kissed, easy-living ethos, this might be for you, but then again it might well not.
Address 7-12 The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E
Number of floors One
Ambience Surf shack
Likely shoppers The tourist horde/dude wannabes
Quiksilver’s European headquarters Saint Jean de Luz, France