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WeSC, Neal Street, London

Hardcore boardwear enthusiasts will be delighted with WeSC’s second UK store, but it is unlikely to widen the brand’s appeal

If boardwear’s your thing, then the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden is something of a destination. Even if you haven’t tackled multiple half-pipes, attempted a heelflip, nosegrind or perhaps an Ollie North but just like the oversized sloppy Joe look that characterises the skateboarder uniform, the chances are you’ll find your way to this part of town.

And when you do, you’ll be confronted with the likes of Fenchurch, Fat Face and, since a couple of weeks ago, WeSC.

The Stockholm-based skatewear brand already has a store in Carnaby Street, and from the outside there is little to distinguish one from the other.

Both are canary yellow in colour and, as the PR put it when describing its location: “You can’t miss it.” Even in an area filled with loud window displays and shouty shopfronts, you’d be hard pushed to overlook this one if you tried.

WeSC is an acronym for WeAreTheSuperlativeConspiracy. Back in 1999, its founders were all “avid skateboarders, snowboarders and, above all, creative minds”, according to the blurb.

This is a two-floor store uncompromisingly aimed at the boarding enthusiast, with little allowance made for those who are not part of this subculture.

Key looks and merchandise mix

Walk through the doors of this store and you might be forgiven for thinking that you’ve walked into a headphones shop. There are WeSC-branded headphones everywhere, ranging from sleek-looking metallic DJ versions retailing at close to £120, to cheaper, brightly coloured workaday versions. There is a sense that these are considered as much clothing as the hoodies, T-shirts, check shirts and denims that form the real meat of the offer.

The denim range provides a fair indication of the price level of this collection, with the lead-in price for a pair of jeans being about £60, topping out at £180

for “chemistry” black selvage jeans which feature a 1980s-style snow-wash.

According to WeSC, spring 11 will feature a series of collaborations including a Casio/WeSC-branded G-Shock watch, Italian “handcrafted” sunglasses and a range of merchandise produced in association with street fashion personality Fats Shariff.

For a branded offer, there is a relatively wide price range, meaning WeSC does not provide an automatic bar to entry for those with less well-stacked wallets.

Score 7/10

Visual merchandising

Basic and just a little predictable might be the best words to apply to the visual merchandising in this store. On the ground floor, the bulk of the clothing is displayed around the perimeter, side- hung on black steel fixtures. A series of deft touches are provided by standalone glass boxes that are attached to

black laundry rack-style supports and

which are used to highlight small groups of items.

There is also the now very familiar wire grid attached to the wall at the back of the stairwell and used as a vehicle to show off jeans. A note of difference is struck by the fact that two out of the three pairs of jeans on this grid have been turned inside out to expose the selvage detailing - a nice touch - and most of the displays are accessorised with a pair of headphones. It’s also worth noting the eye-catching large printed graphics, particularly the one that occupies part of one of the ground floor walls and features somebody who is at the base of a large staircase down which he appears to have fallen.

The basement itself is more straightforward to merchandise, owing to its more standard shape. The laid stock is neatly folded on a black table composed of a series of black open-sided boxes. Perfectly respectable but unsurprising.

Score 6/10

Service

There seemed to be a lot of staff for a shop that measures just 1,095 sq ft across two floors, and all appeared to be exponents of boardwear cool. The real positive about them is that although they may exude street style they are a friendly bunch, and providing you can understand the street speak you’ll find this a positive experience. Their knowledge of the stock seemed impressive, although the range is not huge, and they were all ready to help any shopper who had doubts about a possible purchase.

Score 8/10

Store appeal

WeSC has spent about £60,000 on fitting out this shop and a number of the elements work well. The brand certainly benefits from the canary yellow that forms part of its identity and has been applied to the whole of the shopfront.

Inside the store there are a number of things that go some way towards creating that sense of difference, so vital in this part of Covent Garden at least. Perhaps the most obvious of these is, strangely, the wallpaper, which has been created by applying monochrome photographs of “WeActivists” - youthful ambassadors for the brand. This sets an offbeat tone for the interior.

No assessment of this store would be complete without mention of the inverted rabbit lights in the basement (pictured). There are a large number of these and there is no apparent reason for them, other than to foster a sense of the surreal. The basement itself is filled with mirrors and the use of grey paint and concrete to create the fitting rooms strikes an industrial note.

Score 6/10

Would I buy?

The headphones in their cheerful colours are certainly tempting. As far as the clothing is concerned, like many skate and boardwear brands, this is probably for the cognoscenti and success will depend on there being sufficient numbers of fans to make this all stack up. The market for this kind of thing is inevitably restricted, but for those partial to boardwear style, this is at least as good as any of the competition.

Score 6/10

Verdict: 33/50

The UK’s second WeSC is a good shop and one that will undoubtedly find favour with its fans, but in terms of broadening its appeal there is something of a question mark. The store’s design complements the brand perfectly, but there is still a slight sense of creating a space where quirkiness has been applied once the layout and design have been finished.

Essentials

  • Location 35 Neal Street, London WC2H
  • Size 1,095 sq ft across two floors
  • Store design TEA
  • Roll-out The original store concept was conceived for the WeSC flagship store in Stockholm. It will be rolled out globally
  • Fit-out Six weeks from design concept to finished store
  • Oddest feature The inverted rabbit light fixtures in the basement

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