A visit to Bluewater sorted this season’s footwear pacesetters from the plodders.
Opened in 1999, Bluewater is the fourth largest shopping centre in the UK, behind the MetroCentre, Trafford Centre and Westfield Stratford City. Set in a former chalk quarry in Kent, the 330 stores, 55 bars and restaurants and 13,000 free parking spaces help to draw in some 28 million visitors each year.
Trying to attract those customers are many of fashion’s big retailers, meaning Bluewater has one of the strongest high street footwear offers all under one roof. Most stores were well stocked with new season product - all the more enticing considering there’s little local competition save for Lakeside over the Dartford Crossing.
Footwear trends often move quite slowly, with perennial bestsellers making regular returns, particularly during the winter months when sturdy, weatherproof basics are often favoured over fashion-focused styles. However, autumn 13 has seen most retailers push product forward, with the usual boots and brogues coming in a plethora of updates.
Ubiquitous hero pieces for women include catwalk-inspired buckled boots, grungy hardware detailing, cut-out panels, tomboy-style Chelsea boots and sleek pointed court shoes with various heel heights and in a range of colours. Top trends for men focus on classics such as desert boots, robust brogue styles, the resurgence of the running shoe as everyday fashion statement and a focus on new soles to refresh traditional styles.
Bluewater’s stores were scored, as with our previous menswear and womenswear surveys, based on their specific autumn 13 offer and in-store experience, including customer service and store design, which was generally of a high standard as Bluewater’s storefits are modern and well-maintained. Points for value considered the quality of the product compared with the competitiveness of its pricing.
Stores were visited on Thursday, October 10.