It’s about a year since Theo Paphitis, Dragons’ Den star and lingerie entrepreneur, was glad-handing the media an hour or so ahead of the opening of his first Boux Avenue store in Lakeside.
Address Upper level, Westfield London, W12
Boux Avenue established 2011
Total stores 11
Planned stores by November 18
And last week you might have been forgiven for thinking you were in a Groundhog Day out-take as the man was once more pressing the flesh prior to the ribbon-cutting of the latest branch, this time in Westfield London.
This is, in fact, the 11th branch for the nascent lingerie chain and at 2,700 sq ft it is just a shade smaller than the Bluewater original, which remains the biggest.
This is an ongoing expansion story, with a further seven stores due to open by November. At a time when the majority of retailers are retrenching, this is something of an exception to the current UK retail rule.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Stand outside this store and all is bright. The left-hand window features paper lanterns in hot brights, providing the backing for the torsos that are clad in hot pink, orange and blue lingerie. And in case you miss the point, a legend reads ‘Bright New Boux’ – in hot pink. The other window features beachwear, a vintage-style packing trunk and has a mildly saucy postcard feel about it. Inside, the merchandise at the front of the shop hits you with a rush of colour. After this, it’s standard, albeit well-executed, lingerie VM with fashion at the fore. The light boxes and iPad-style photo frames strike a feminine note, with their endlessly changing series of images of well-endowed models.
02 - CONCEPT
If you’ve never been to a Boux Avenue but have been Stateside and encountered Victoria’s Secret, much of what is on view will feel comfortably familiar. The interior, with white mid-shop and perimeter equipment, features multiple drawers beneath each style – acting as a glamorous forward reserve. The upper part of the wall is backlit and the coffered ceiling is accented with black. But it’s the use of the pink stock and pink displays that really brings the interior to life.
03 - SERVICE
On the Saturday lunchtime of visiting, the greeter at the door was doing an economical, but happy, dance to the music that was coming from the mall or the store (hard to tell which) and was all smiles. For those who chose to enter the shop, a spray of perfume was on offer and then it was on to checking out the range. Large numbers of staff were on hand with advice and help – all delivered with a smile.
The service was very good but it needed to be, in view of the nearby competition.
04 - PRODUCT
This is not the cheapest end of the market at Westfield London, but neither is it the most expensive. Boux Avenue provides mid-market fashion that’s not just about bras and knickers.
A range of nightwear featuring chemises, long T-shirts and robes is also on display. And, as is increasingly demanded of any operator in the sector, a bra-fitting service is provided as well as click-and-collect. But it was the brights that seemed to be getting most of the attention from customers visiting the store.
05 - COMPETITION
Boux Avenue could hardly have chosen a more competitive arena in which to operate. Almost opposite is Gilly Hicks, the underwear and beachwear spin-off brand from Abercrombie & Fitch, and almost 50% of the shoppers heading into that store seemed to emerge as converted customers. By contrast, standing outside Boux Avenue for just under an hour (between 12pm and 1pm on a Saturday), in spite of the best efforts of the staff, fewer than 10 people exited the store bearing one of its bags. The centre also contains Calvin Klein Underwear, Rigby & Peller, La Senza and Marks & Spencer.
06 - VERDICT - Lift-off may not be immediate
According to Boux Avenue’s management, this store is expected to be the chain’s number one performer from the off, but there are few guarantees in the current climate. The store is well put together, if a little derivative, and there are ticks in the boxes as far as most of the range is concerned. The real issue, however, is whether the attractions on a Saturday of a ripped young man displaying his musculature outside Gilly Hicks will prove too much of a distraction. He was garnering many admiring glances and directing the gaze away from the charms of Boux.