The streetwear brand’s revamped store is double the size of its previous incarnation and makes strong use of graphics to appeal to the skater crowd
There are only two Fenchurch stores in the UK: one in the St David’s development in Cardiff and the other in Earlham Street, Covent Garden, opposite the Gucci Icon-Temporary store that Drapers covered last week and which is close to seeing out its brief London life.
The Fenchurch store in Cardiff is functional, and as a brand that has its roots in skateboard culture, seems to have moved quite a long way from its original heritage. The London store, unlike its flashy, Italian bling footwear-toting neighbour, is here for the long game and is the result of a two-month-long refurbishment. This revamp has delivered an almost completely different in-store experience to the Welsh store, stock notwithstanding.
And, according to a spokeswoman, this is deliberate as the store attempts to reassert Fenchurch’s skateboarding positioning. The 2,000 sq ft store is almost twice the pre-refit size, and in design terms, what is on view here will be taken to Cardiff. The revamped store has paid dividends for those wishing to embrace the Fenchurch brand or those who just wish to shop for the range without recourse to the internet.
And curiously, if you do look at the brand online, both the Cardiff and London branches are listed as “concept stores” - something of a struggle to see how a company with two standalone outlets can make the claim for both.
The store is also likely to provide the template for further expansion this year, with the brand primed to open five further standalone outlets, as well as taking space within young fashion chain Bank, department store House of Fraser and etailer Asos in the UK, and El Corté Ingles in Spain.
Key looks and merchandise
The store has two floors: a small basement and the ground level. The basement is set aside for men’s skate(ish)wear, with baggy-looking trousers, loose T-shirts and baseball caps at every turn. Turquoise, black, sand and purple are the predominant colours. Prices range from £20 for a T-shirt to close to £60 for a full-treatment, zip-through hoodie, with jeans priced somewhere in between.
The ground floor is divided into two rooms, with more menswear in the area above the basement and womenswear reached through a square arch near the back of the shop. On this level, the menswear is broadly the same with a few pairs of shorts added, although the colours are generally brighter. For womenswear, the story seems to be layering - judging by the displays - with strong checked shirts and primary-coloured minis. Both sexes benefit from a well-put-together accessories range, with silver belts and bags for women from the Bottletop charity tie-up particularly appropriate to the clothing.
Prices for the women’s ranges are almost entirely in line with the men’s collection. If you were to level a criticism at the offer, it is that there is relatively little to differentiate it from its rivals - Fat Face, Quiksilver and even parts of the current Gap ranges look and feel similar. Nonetheless, this is a competent, reasonably priced offer.
The stock is pretty densely merchandised on both floors. In part, this has to be the inevitable outcome of a floorplan where the space is heavily segmented and the collection covers a number of categories. It means having to rummage around to view everything. That said, for the target shopper, this shouldn’t prove too much of a problem.
On a more positive note, the store is merchandised by story, aided by the open-fronted wardrobe fixtures in the mid-shop, which means colour co-ordination works well and shoppers can be guided towards thinking multi-buy.
There are two other things that stand out: the mannequins and the 2D and 3D graphics. The former take the form of black, hairless figures with the Fenchurch logo stencilled in white onto their heads, promoting a sense of the slick and urban.
But it’s the graphics that really give this store its identity. These range from graffito-style splashes on walls, with the word Fenchurch at their heart, to a 3D montage formed by attaching a BMX bike, a reel-to-reel tape-recorder, a skateboard and other youth-culture items to the wall and spraying it all white - effective and eye-catching.
Perhaps being called “bro” will work for some - particularly those in the skater wannabe fraternity. But even if this does prove a little off-putting for the rest of us, all of the staff combined friendliness with politeness, which is something that can be hard to come by in this part of fashionable Covent Garden. And they all seemed to know about both ranges and pricing - so pre-opening training was clearly paying off.
Much of the store’s appearance is down to creative director Chris Isherwood, and in terms of the store matching the aspirations for the brand, this is a good piece of work. Externally, the brick and matt-black painted wood and sash windows lend an artisan-like feel to the enterprise, while the simple white logo shines out like a beacon.
The exterior theme continues indoors, with exposed brick walls, whitewashed metal pillars and reinforced steel joists and white-bodied lights. This is a simple piece of store design, but in that simplicity lies the appeal. The use of wooden boxes with their interiors painted in faded palazzo- style adds to the hand-made feel that is a feature of much of this design. This contrasts strongly (and well) with the hyper-modern mannequins and white, mid-shop fixtures. It also means that the generally brightly coloured stock is not overpowered by its surroundings.
Would I buy?
For those with a penchant for casual, street-based clothing with a nod towards skateboarding, this store is sure to be on the ‘to visit’ list. In its London store, Fenchurch has managed to strike a good balance between the stock and the store that contains it. The stock also happens to be competitively priced, but whether the collections are sufficiently differentiated is a moot point, although most of what is on display is at least as good as the competition.
Fenchurch’s newly refurbished store is a big improvement on what went before and provides a robust model for future expansion. It will be interesting to see where the brand heads next.
Address Earlham Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H
Store size 2,000 sq ft
Reopened April 26
Refurbishment period Two months
Interior design Chris Isherwood
Other branch St David’s, Cardiff
Major design feature 3D graphic on the ground floor