It’s been two years in the making, has a selling area bigger than many small supermarkets and uses a palette of materials that is normally confined to palaces, mansions and Italian lakeside villas.
Address 121 Regent Street, London W1B
Number of floors Four
Total sq ft (selling area) 27,000 sq ft
Outstanding feature The giant screen
Welcome to Burberry on Regent Street, a global flagship for the brand and a four-floor statement of intent about the future (digital) direction for this purveyor of top-end luxury.
The opening coincides with Burberry’s extraordinary announcement last week in which it noted that sales had suffered a radical slowdown. The statement was sufficiently dire to have investors selling shares across the luxury sector as people wondered whether time had been called on this kind of shopping.
Yet this store really does plough a digital furrow that many would like to follow. This is ‘Burberry World’.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
There’s not much wrong with the way things have been laid out. And whether it’s the ground floor atrium’s glass and bronze cabinets, or the headless mannequins on different-sized plinths on the main floor mezzanine, you can’t help but stop and stare. The fact there are more than 100 screens and 160 iPads distributed around the store’s many levels means Burberry really does walk the in-store digital talk and if you need to know more about a style, help is never more than a few steps away. The windows are muted and tasteful, majoring on the trench coat with handbags and accessories filling the Vigo Street windows where the store wraps around the corner. There’s been plenty of time to get this right, but the wait appears to have been worth it.
02 - CONCEPT
This store makes the transition between digital and terrestrial pretty seamless, using technology to augment the experience. The best example of this is probably in the fitting rooms where tags fitted to the garments mean that as a shopper enters, the mirror displays information about the item chosen. The massive screen (on which runway shows will be streamed four times a year) is a showstopper.
It all also happens to look beautiful.
03 - SERVICE
Everyone in this store is very slim, very young and very smart … as you’d expect. Those with low self-esteem might find this a mild problem, but everyone is also very helpful and friendly. And all sales people pack an iPad, ready to check ranges, colours and suchlike and primed to make things easier for customers. There are chairs and sofas almost everywhere. At these price levels nobody wants to be rushed and the idea of being able to take the weight off your feet seems an essential one.
04 - PRODUCT
A real sense of Britishness underpins Burberry and the decision to fill the windows with trench coats and fill the mezzanine gallery with the same item shows this is a brand that knows its customer. Visiting tourists still crave the check and if a mackintosh is beyond reach, there is a room filled with accessories that feature the pattern. Burberry is not for the faint of wallet and there is an understatement about almost everything. Anyone in search of bling might be disappointed.
05 - Competition
Every luxury brand probably likes to think its products are unique and to an extent this is true. What matters, however, is that there are a lot of branded alternatives on nearby Bond Street and at least two of London’s most upscale department stores are within 10 minutes’ walk.
In spite of its recent form, Burberry is a very strong brand and has the capacity to meet all comers head on. And at this level, it’s less a matter of price and a lot more to do with whether you like a particular brand and the ambience it exudes. Effortless superiority, however, is far from a given.
06 - VERDICT - The faithful will come
In the shopping centre industry there are those who will tell you that if you build the right scheme, the shoppers will come, irrespective of the prevailing economic conditions. The same might be said of a luxury store and the scale of this opulent emporium is such that it will be a destination for many visiting Regent Street. There is the little matter that Burberry’s prices are not for everybody. It is fair to say that, at a stroke, this is the number one store for the brand and if you want a slice of the checked action a trip to W1 will now be a must.