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Hit or Miss

Footwear retailers in Westfield Stratford proved they have a handle on autumn 11 trends, but only some go the extra mile to keep customers spending.

With its shiny new shopfits and multimillion-pound PR machine, Drapers was expecting to be blown away by footwear retailers at Westfield Stratford City that wanted to stand out from the pack by impressing customers with innovative stores and trend-appropriate product. In part this was true, but sadly not often enough across the 15 stores Drapers visited.

Footwear retailers and departments were judged on product, experience and value. The product was scored on its relevance to the retailer’s customer profile, and ranged from trend-led young fashion to quality-driven specialist footwear. The experience encompassed everything from the look of the windows to the service in store. Value was judged on comparing prices across the market and gauging whether this was just in terms of design difference and quality.

In terms of product, most retailers had a good grasp on autumn 11’s trends, with a strong presence of heeled brogues and penny loafers, leopard print, Chelsea boots and kitten heels among others, but it was those that were forward thinking enough to inject a twist or an eye-catching point of difference that will really win over the trend-led customer. Topshop came out on top for this with an unrivalled offer of desirable styles that goes the extra mile to get customers spending up until Christmas. River Island was also notable in the trend stakes but Kurt Geiger’s offer disappointed.

Generally the experience in stores was commendable. Especially noteworthy was the efficiency of staff who have clearly been trained to prioritise keeping up the store’s appearance, although at times this did come at the detriment of customer service. Schuh and LK Bennett were the top two stores in terms of experience, giving something extra with a friendly service that didn’t feel forced.

Jones Bootmaker, New Look and M&S scored the highest in terms of value, clearly three different customer profiles but equally offering good value in accordance with quality versus price.

Westfield Stratford offers footwear retailers a tantalising opportunity with footfall from the Olympics next year. They’ve got off to a good start but improvements should be made to ensure they stand up to the intense scrutiny and expectation from visitors in 2012. 

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