The Brazilian flip-flop brand has opened its first UK store off Carnaby Street. While the vast product range impresses, a few retail basics seem to be amiss.
Address Kingly Court, London W1B
Opened May 10
Design “Exactly the same as every other Havaianas store,” according to a member of staff
Disappointing The store’s exterior
Positive The breadth of the range
Mention the name Havaianas and, for many, images of tanned and toned Brazilian folk executing a steamy samba may spring to mind. The implication is, perhaps, that if you wear a pair of Havaianas flip-flops, you will become part of the fashionable beachwear-clad clan to whom the only thing that matters is whether it’s a coffee or a caipirinha.
Those acquainted with the brand may actually have seen pictures of the São Paulo flagship store; a minimalist, plate-glass fronted edifice with a palm tree-filled interior that happens also to sell the product. And before you get carried away with any kind of Carmen Miranda reverie, allow Drapers to bring you back down to earth … to Kingly Court in fact.
For those who don’t know, Kingly Court is a small area just off Carnaby Street that is filled with niche brands.
A couple of years ago it also hosted a Gap pop-up store that caused something of a stir at the time. Now it has another reason for shoppers to sit up and take notice - it is the site of the UK’s first standalone Havaianas store.
This is a far cry from the São Paulo store - it is a very small space stuffed with brightly coloured rubber sandals and a bespoke service available at the cash-and-wrap counter at the back. It may not be Brazil, but for many it will be as close as they are likely to get.
Key looks and merchandise mix
Havaianas flip-flops are a bit like denim, in that it’s all about the branding as the core commodity isn’t worth that much. No surprise, therefore, that the entry price for the adult ranges is £16, with the bulk falling between £25 and £35.
For those wishing to splash out on a stylish piece of rubber, there are two styles of Swarovski crystal-studded flip-flops, at £150 and £180, although it seems probable that sales at this end of the range will be limited. For the most part, it’s a question of whether you want a solid colour or perhaps a contrast trim, with the price varying accordingly. There are also sneakers and espadrille styles available, although all bear the hallmark Havaianas-branded rubber sole.
The real selling point about this store, however, is the chance to create a personalised style. Shoppers can buy a sole in one colour and then choose from a range of thongs that will be attached while you wait. There are even additional trims that can be added to the strap. If having something different from everybody else matters, then this is a relatively cost-effective way of making that wish a reality.
When it comes to displaying a pair of Havaianas flip-flops, let’s face facts, there aren’t many options available. Flip-flops need to be shown with the whole sole visible in order to emphasise the different styles. For this reason, the shop is all about the perimeter, where the stock is organised in tiers to create a wall of footwear.
However, Havaianas has made choosing more straightforward by separating the plain from the patterned stock. Likewise, men’s stylings are separated from women’s and there is a discrete section for the cheaper kids’ options.
There is also a single white block in the centre of the floor, the sides of which form small display modules for more patterned flip-flops, and it has a glass top, creating a museum-like feel.
For the windows, the brand has opted for the obvious, with palm tree and Havaianas logo decals applied to the glass. This may be basic but at least it allows unobstructed views into the interior.
The store was visited twice, once officially and once not. On both occasions staff were smiling and helpful. On the downside there were very few customers and on the first visit, on a Friday evening, the surrounding area was full of shoppers.
On the second occasion, a sheet of A4 paper had been fixed to the window informing potential customers that the shop was temporarily “cash only”. It is difficult, therefore, to draw a conclusion about this one, but if you were short of cash, the denial of a card option was clearly going to make things tricky.
Essentially, the store is a white box filled with white light that allows the stock to do all of the work. And since the stock is used as wallpaper around the perimeter, the effect is of a brightly lit interior. At the rear of the space, the cash desk is white and inoffensive.
A couple of quibbles, however. For a store that has been open less than a fortnight, the frontage should not feature a logo where one of the letters -an ‘a’ - in Havaianas is missing (even allowing for the fact there are quite a lot of these). And if you are going to install an interactive touch-screen gadget at the checkout, then make sure it works - last week it did not.
To use the word design in the context of this store might be to flatter as the displays are simple, but overall they are eye-catching.
Would I buy?
In spite of the fairly obvious shortcomings, a purchase might well be on the cards as Havaianas flip-flops are about impulse and affordability. For those objecting to spending upwards of £20 on a piece of moulded rubber, it’s about style, which can command any price.
Havaianas has succeeded in keeping things simple in spite of the loud merchandise on offer.
Havaianas makes standalone store UK landfall in a modest space exactly where it should be, in the heart of London’s West End. But it must work harder on the small details if it is to find favour generally.