Take elements from Kurt Geiger’s Covent Garden flagship, add some boho, art deco flavours, and what do you get? The retailer’s new Portobello Road store.
Back in the summer of last year, Kurt Geiger took what might have been considered a bold step by opening a flagship store in one of the most high-profile locations in Covent Garden. It was a two-floor confection in which everything sparkled, with large amounts of chrome, pinpoint lighting and a hefty serving of glamorous footwear.
At the time it looked like something of a one-off and it was quite hard to see it being repeated elsewhere, such was the level of in-store detail. However, a little over a month ago another branch opened, this time on a single floor, that takes what was achieved in WC1 and ups the ante in a much smaller space. Portobello Road, in Notting Hill, west London, has long been the home of sundry boho types, tourists and trustafarians with probably too much time on their hands, but with well-stacked wallets.
As such it must represent a ready market for a retailer that supplies the top end of the mid-market and this was probably the reason All Saints opened a large unit along the street last year (Drapers, March 20, 2010) which looks to have been doing brisk trade ever since. Kurt Geiger must be hoping that something of the kind will happen in this store and that shoppers will come in search of a little metropolitan glamour, rather than the reach-me-down chic that characterises much of this area.
Unlike the Covent Garden store, the Portobello Road branch is about Kurt Geiger and Kurt Geiger own brands KG and Carvela, with the only external brand being Ugg. Prices, in general, are therefore considerably lower than much of what is on show in central London, but there is no shortage of glamour.
For women, the top end is represented by some bright, chunky, suede wedges that have just been delivered and are on sale at £280 as a cheerful introduction to summer. For those with less cash to spend, there is an entire wall panel of espadrilles, priced at about £80. They look good, but at the time of writing were probably likely to sit on the shelf for a few weeks unless the weather changes substantially. In the interim, it’s still possible to snap up a pair of Uggs, although this might be leaving things a little late, considering spring is probably just around the corner.
Kurt Geiger, of course, wouldn’t be Kurt Geiger without a large quantity of court shoes and stilettos, and this branch does not disappoint with a
wide variety of styles, colours and treatments, all of which hover around the £100 mark.
For men, the range is more limited and although the toe profile remains very pointy this season, the collection had a distinctly classic feel to it, with variation being provided by the use of patent leather and a couple of ankle boot styles.
The thing about this store is that it is actually quite small and there’s a lot of stock to get out. Practically, this means most of the available perimeter space is filled, although the mid-shop has been kept relatively clutter-free. As far as props are concerned, it looks a little as if the visual merchandisers at Kurt Geiger have wandered up the street and shelled out for some of the art deco pieces that are on view in the windows of the area’s many antique dealers. A small, circular pewter table light is typical of this, as
are the Perspex crossed trestle supports for the mid-shop tables. And if you want Jazz Age, then the unclothed white mannequins stretch out their arms, Josephine Baker style, to show off brightly coloured feather boas, both in-store and in the windows.
The legend ‘Women turn into birds of paradise at night’, currently to be found emblazoned across all Kurt Geiger stores, seems to fit the surroundings that have been created in this branch and the visual merchandising helps to promote a feeling of general decadence. This may be a relatively small store, but it packs a visual merchandising punch.
Impressive really. From the moment a customer walked in, the staff were there to greet them and offer assistance if required. They also did the job of thanking them for visiting on the way out - a small touch, but it seemed to be meeting with general approval from those venturing into the store.
All the staff also demonstrated good product knowledge - knowing prices, styles and brands for everything that was on show. This is not easily done, but it was done with a smile, in spite of the dizzyingly high heels that the female members of staff were wearing, and presumably had been wearing since the beginning of the day.
This is a long, narrow store and much has been done to disguise that fact.
The walls are mirrored, immediately giving the impression of width as each one reflects its opposite on the other side of the shop. And to ensure concentration is maintained at eye-level, the sloping ceiling has been painted matt black and the plain wood floors are unvarnished.
Store design highlights include a chandelier created from court shoes (ballet pumps were used in the Covent Garden store), a high-gloss red cash and wrap counter at the back of the store and the mid-shop red leather banquettes. Kurt Geiger is about glamour and this branch delivers.
Would I buy?
Shoe shops, doncha love ‘em? Even if you don’t and in spite of the foot-stamping fashion hordes that love to show off their glitz and who tend to be found in Kurt Geiger, this is a store that will appeal to a broad range of young(ish) customers. And if shoppers are given the choice between this and stores in the area carrying far more aspirational price tags, then it will emerge the winner. And yes, I would buy - although not necessarily for myself, you understand.
Kurt Geiger continues to open stores that impress and shows forward movement with each new branch. The Portobello Road store is as good as it gets in the mid-market arena.