Twenty-six thousand square feet is a lot of space in any retail context and when it comes to selling jeans, this would normally confer flagship status.
This is especially true when the area in question is enclosed within a department store.
The newly opened Denim Studio in Selfridges is a case in point. Stocking 26 brands for women and with everything from a Primark denim area to a pair of jeans that can be yours for £11,000, the intention is for it to be all things to all people.
As well as being a democratic concept, there are a number of things that mark it out: a vintage denim section allows shoppers to buy denim by weight, while in the fitting room area, aka the ‘Jeanius Bar’, shoppers can look at content relating to the offer on touchscreens.
It isn’t easy to be a denim everyman but this comes pretty close.
01 VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Stepping off the escalator on the third floor, it’s hard to miss the Denim Studio, thanks to the neon signs that are positioned to the side of the two archways that provide ingress to the department. Walking through, the first thing you see is a regimented line of inverted lower bodies sporting denim. Although there is a lot happening on the perimeter, it is the mid-shop that grabs the attention, thanks to the many tables on which the various brands are displayed. The sense is of plenty, in what is claimed to be the ‘world’s biggest denim department’, though views across the space are clear. For a mundane commodity, Selfridges generates real excitement - not least from the denim ostrich props.
This is an expensive shopfit but you’d expect nothing less of Selfridges. The concept is simple: lots of denim brands in a seductive environment with bolt-on services. These range from personal shopping, where you can get advice on which pair of jeans will suit you, to the aforementioned Jeanius Bar. Visitors may avail themselves of ‘The Denim Tailor’ - probably to shorten the improbably long leg length that seems to be the norm for jeans.
In most denim shops, buying jeans is a matter of finding a style you like and then seeing if the size you need is stocked. In this store, staffing levels are much higher than normal, which is because the emphasis is probably less on the Primark and Levi’s ranges and more on the premium jeans. These need to be sold and sold some more. This in turn is probably why a personal denim shopping service is offered.
If it’s top-of-the-pile service that is sought, this is a good place to visit.
There are 11,000 pairs of jeans in this department, with everything from 14oz denim to lamb leather jeans, which are things of rare beauty … as long as you’re not a lamb. With a brand menu that stretches from Primark, where you can self-scan your purchase, to an £11,000 pair of black jeans with diamond studs from Paige, it runs the gamut of denim options. Between these two extremes, the biggest brand for Selfridges is J Brand. An ‘East End Thrift Store’ also sells denim by the kilogram.
The thing about denim jeans is that there is always another brand to choose from just around the corner. On this reckoning, denim is the ultimate fad and brand names come and go, with few labels being readily regarded as hardy perennials.
This means that a large space stocking multiple brands in depth should do well. The Denim Studio is a space where brands will certainly wax and wane with demand. As such, provided
the buying is up to scratch, it should prosper simply by being larger than its nearby rivals, as well as by offering more names and greater change.
06 VERDICT: first among equals
A new department in Selfridges always comes with a media flurry but this one merits the noise. It was previously the kidswear department - an also-ran in this glamorous store. Now it is a space that makes the journey up to the third floor worthwhile. Not only does the shopper benefit from the scale of offer, but brand selection and service level put this one out on its own. You have to admire the bold statement made about denim equality, as represented by the proportion of the space that has been given to Primark.