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Hit or Miss Footwear - Spring 11

In the first of spring 11’s seasonal surveys, Drapers pounded the streets of Bristol to inspect the footwear collections and levels of customer service in the city’s multiple retailers.

Constructed at a cost of £500m, the Cabot Circus development changed the face of retail and the shopping culture in Bristol three years ago.

Before then, people went to the city to visit stores such as Marks & Spencer and Next in and around Broadmead, the traditional retail heartland of Bristol. They hit the Galleries shopping centre for Gap and independents, and shopping mall Cribbs Causeway on the outskirts offered every big fashion retail name.

Then developers Hammerson and Land Securities pitched up and built Cabot Circus. For some it’s an excellent example of a glossy, modern retail space, but for others it’s too flashy and youthful. “It’s too open, so when it rains we get wet,” says Sylvia Ellis of Bristol, a regular city centre shopper. “And the shops are too young for me.”

Only Gerry Weber and Hobbs offer something for the older, mainstream womenswear customer at Cabot Circus and the rest of the mall is geared towards a younger, more fashionable shopper.

The high-spec finish of this mall and the fact the roof remains half open at all times gives it a bright and airy outdoor feel, and it houses some of the finest examples of retailing seen by Drapers in recent years.

The flashy design has forced every retail tenant to up the ante on store design, in-store experience and customer service, all of which were generally fantastic during this Hit or Miss trip.

However, it was at Clarks and Office - both of which are in Broadmead - where Drapers had the best service, and Kurt Geiger delivered the best shopfit and windows at Cabot Circus.

Trend-wise, spring 11 has been kind. Styles such as the wedge, bright and nude finishes and 1970s platforms offer retailers some clear winners but, as always, the challenge is to interpret those trends so they are best in class.

Office, Aldo and New Look offered the best selection of wedges, while strappy shoes and 1970s platforms were fantastic at River Island and Kurt Geiger. Production quality was good across the board, despite rising production costs, but retailers should take care when creating wooden soles and heels for 1970s platforms as some veneers looked cheap.

It was a confused pricing architecture that let some retailers down, particularly those in the value and mainstream sectors. Far too many basic styles didn’t have the levels of design and quality needed to justify their prices, with savvy consumers unlikely to spend their hard-earned cash on these.

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