What is it about Brazil that its mass-market footwear always seems to be made from an artificial material?
Address 15 King Street, London WC2E
Total UK stores One. This is it
Brand Headquarters Brazil
Ambience Contemporary art gallery
The one that everybody knows is Havaianas – the Bentley, Beemer or Maserati of the flip-flop world, depending on the use to which you put them. But there is also Melissa, maker of plastic ballet pumps and sandals, and this is what’s puzzling. It’s not as if there aren’t massive herds munching the Mato Grosso, so the raw material for natural footwear must be on hand, but no matter.
The point about Melissa is that it’s a little more exclusive than Havaianas and now, for the first time, there is a shop, albeit of the pop-up variety, in this country. It’s in Covent Garden and has been open for a few weeks now and will remain so for at least three months. And unlike most pop-ups, this one has rather more in common with an art gallery than a shoe shop.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
For the most part, this is ordinary visual merchandising, but ordinary in a very appealing way. Almost all of the shoes are displayed on long white tables that cling to the perimeter walls on either side of this deep, narrow shop.
The tables themselves are nothing special, with a melamine-style finish. But the visual merchants at Melissa have worked out a simple fact – if you have brightly coloured merchandise, don’t try and compete with it. The outcome is that it is the shoes, not the display that you find yourself looking at. A series of art gallery-style installations, which use neon light, coloured and clear Perspex cubes and poster paint daubs, add life, and shoes are displayed as part of these, highly effectively.
02 - CONCEPT
Things don’t get much more simple than this shop, but Melissa has taken advantage of the space it has to ensure the ambience is more gallery than retail outlet. The brand has worked with British designer Julie Verhoeven and neon artist Kleber Matheus to create this interior, which certainly helps as far as impact is concerned. And making a neon shrine at the rear, which might otherwise have gone unvisited, adds to this. Again, simple but compelling.
03 - SERVICE
Enthusiastic, when asked, but a mite amateur, might be the best way to sum up the service. At the front of the store, the two staff members – who were having an in-depth conversation about something – were happy to talk to shoppers when required, but no approach was made or any attempt to understand what people might be looking for. The bulk of the offer in Melissa does not cost huge sums of money, but on the other hand, plastic shoes at these prices probably need a bit of selling savvy if they are to be shifted.
04 - PRODUCT
There really is nothing like this anywhere else in Covent Garden. And while £50 may sound expensive for a pair of Ultragirl translucent lime peep-toe pumps, the wearer can be safe in the knowledge that very few others will be wearing anything remotely similar. This is rather the point of Melissa. Courts, sandals, ballet pumps or wedges – all have something about them that sets them apart from other brands. And since there is only one Melissa store in the UK, scarcity is therefore part of the appeal.
05 - COMPETITION
There’s an outpost of US indie Opening Ceremony across the street and this too is a pop-up. It is like the Brazilian brand insofar as it has no direct equivalent, although Melissa looked far busier. This puts both stores in a strong position and shoppers entering this shop will probably do so because they want a pair of Melissas and won’t settle for anything less. For fashion footwear shoppers, Covent Garden has everything from Dune to Camper and all represent competition. There is, however, sufficient clear blue water between this and others to ensure it has a distinct target market.
06 - VERDICT - A pity it’s a pop-up
There’s a lot to admire and in many ways it is far more interesting than most of the area’s offers. As a brand, Melissa achieves that tricky task of taking something that is almost commodity-like and then adding value and desirability to it.
In Covent Garden, it does this with a mouth-watering array of coloured merchandise and a shop that makes you look. Like other pop-ups that have appeared, notionally to take advantage of the Olympics, there is a limited lifespan and this seems a shame. A degree more permanence would be welcome.