Remember Le Coq Sportif? Football fans from the 1980s probably will, as it was the terracewear of choice for many, taking the form of windcheaters and trackie bottoms with the characteristic cockerel logo applied to the garments at strategic points.
Address 23 Earlham Street, Covent Garden, WC2H
Number of floors Two
Opened May 2013
Then at some point before the dawn of the 21st century it seemed almost to disappear as new brands found favour and the world seemed to become, at one point, the domain of either Nike or Adidas. But it didn’t go away, and now it’s reborn with the opening in May of a store in Covent Garden’s Earlham Street, on the site of the late Firetrap store that occupied one corner of Seven Dials.
The new two-floor store has a prominent position and is a world away from what was there before.
01 VISUAL MERCHANDISING
In terms both of layout and display, this one belongs to the ‘more is less’ school of retail thought, with plain floors, white walls and perimeter rails showing off the brightly coloured tops and footwear.
In the mid-shop, plain plywood tables with pigeonholes ensure there are few distractions from the product. It’s the use of the product as quasi-art that really carries this store though. This is the handiwork of the Wilson Brothers, the arty duo who have worked with brands including Nike and Diesel. In this instance, they have a sculpture composed of bicycle wheels that turn endlessly overhead. Much of the product is deployed on the walls in eye-catching frames.
The layout is simple. As this is predominantly a male brand, the collection on the ground floor is for men, while downstairs there is a range for women and a selection of ‘Tour de France performance’ merchandise. Interestingly there is no difference between the genders in terms of the way things look, either in the merchandise or the fabric of the store itself. This is a bright, airy space that gives shoppers the freedom to move around the store.
There is actually a fairly limited range of stock and therefore the trick of knowing all there is to know about what’s on offer is probably not that hard to master. That said, the two members of staff who were manning the store on the day of visiting did know their stuff and seemed genuinely concerned about making a good impression - and that a purchase was made. They were both cheerful and friendly and in keeping with the relatively laid-back vibe of this part of Covent Garden.
Top of the range are cycling tops in the Tour de France performance range. These retail at just shy of £100, but more typical are the related tops that are sold on the ground floor for around the £60 mark. This puts Le Coq Sportif in a good place when set against brands such as luxury label Rapha, which make Le Coq Sportif’s pricing look - ahem - like chicken feed. There is also a substantial range of brightly coloured training and sports shoes which are relatively inexpensive, although most of the offer was reduced.
There is a sense that many of those wandering through the doors of this shop will make a purchase to look good, rather than to enjoy performance sportswear. It is possible to do both, however, and this brings Le Coq Sportif head to head with Rapha and the more modestly priced brands that are found around Covent Garden, including Nike.
However, this is about fashion as much as being at the head of the peloton, meaning that anything from Superdry, just down the road, to American Apparel can be considered tough competition for shopper spend.
06 VERDICT: An astute repositioning
In its 1980s heyday Le Coq Sportif was a fashion brand for a football demographic. This appears to have changed, on the evidence of what’s on show in this store. The rise of the cycling fraternity makes the offer look both timely and astute. The store also looks good and there is every chance you might take a look around if you’re wandering by.
Like so many other brands that were once almost ubiquitous, however, it is quite hard to escape the notion that this may be a little too late in terms of trying to rescue the brand’s equity.