US designer womenswear brand Michael Kors’ second UK store is a different breed from the first, with a flashy shopfit but much more accessible prices.
On April 11, it will be two years since US designer womenswear brand Michael Kors opened its first UK store, with a flourish of chrome, faux zebra-skin rugs and dark brown wood. The man behind the name had made his UK debut on New Bond Street in a manner in keeping with the luxury ambience of that street. This was, and remains, a store where the well-heeled will feel at home and where those with more fragile finances might find themselves heading for the door.
Early last month, however, a second Michael Kors store welcomed shoppers, this time on Regent Street. The contrast between the two is considerable. Apart from the fact that, at 5,800 sq ft and with two trading floors, the Regent Street store is roughly double the size of the New Bond Street shop, both the collections and the customers targeted are different.
This is, in effect, a Michael Kors diffusion store. It’s billed as ‘lifestyle’, meaning the bulk of the offer is cheaper and that entry prices are more affordable for those who shy away from New Bond Street. Previously, the site was occupied by optician Dollond & Aitchison and the Michael Kors hoarding seemed to be in place, while contractor Clements Retail did its stuff, for a period of time almost sufficient for it to qualify for Grade II listing. Now the store is open and it’s busy. A third store is set to open in Westfield London in May.
Key looks and merchandise mix
Stand at the single door that provides ingress and you could be forgiven for thinking you were perusing a glitzy accessories emporium. The ground floor is devoted to handbags, watches and footwear. Starting therefore with the principal category, bags, this is, well, a mixed bag. A lot of what’s on show is metropolitan flash, with gold and silver predominating, and prices are mid-market, starting at close to the £100 mark. However, if you’re in search of something more classic, prices rise sharply, topping out at £4,895 for a Skorpios crocodile-skin shoulder bag.
The same pattern is visible in the footwear department, with entry prices of £85. Most of the watches are between £100 and £200, but if you want a fashionable white ceramic number then expect to pay about £350. Whatever your view of what’s on offer, this is a very wide accessories range.
Upstairs the mood changes abruptly. This is the clothing floor and the early summer palette is quite subdued, consisting of taupe, dusty pink, silver-grey and brown, with burnt orange providing a highlight. Stylings are generally plain, with prints in short supply and a heavy emphasis on knitwear. The whole collection is carefully co-ordinated and, if you wanted, it would be possible to walk into this shop and kit yourself out from head to toe in Michael Kors and then festoon yourself with accessories.
Michael Kors on Regent Street is unashamedly in your face when it comes to visual merchandising and grabbing your attention. Whether it’s the two windows, which convince you that you really want a Michael Kors handbag above anything else (backed by a huge light-box with the MK logo emblazoned upon it) or the many headless white mannequins that are used throughout the interior, this is an impressive effort. It’s all a bit bling, but then that is this brand, or the accessories at least, summarised.
And when it comes to displaying the merchandise, you can’t beat a backlit open-fronted wardrobe set against the staircase wall to show off the handbags. Mid-shop it’s all about throwing white light onto product, whether by internally lit boxes with translucent tops, or by glass-topped cabinets that treat the merchandise as museum objects.
Upstairs, most of the clothing is side-hung, but a catwalk of mannequins with their backs to the staircase shows how things can be worn. It may not be to everybody’s taste, but a lot of work has gone into the visual merchandising in this store and the execution is sharp.
On the Wednesday evening of visiting, most of the action was on the ground floor. Busiest of all was the footwear department and there were plenty of staff on hand to ensure shoppers were not kept waiting. Housekeeping standards were high and a smile was waiting for everyone who came through the door. A pleasant experience.
Michael Kors has transformed the store space and this is a very different design from the New Bond Street store. The ceilings are high and the in-house design team has ensured there is clear category segmentation and that it is easy to move around the space on both floors.
It is tempting to say that this shop is about making the product the hero, but the mid-shop equipment and the brightly lit perimeter fixtures also mean it is hard to ignore the store design in its own right. The monochrome Hollywood glamour pictures that are arranged along the staircase wall are also a nice touch.
This is certainly jet-set flashy but not off-puttingly so, and it manages to make you feel good about being in the shop.
Would I buy?
Personally, possibly not, but you can absolutely understand the appeal and why there were so many shoppers inspecting the ranges.
The decision to put clothing on the first floor seems to have been the right one, as almost all of those in the store seemed to be in the mood to buy accessories and the clothing floor was empty. A quick inspection of the local competition revealed that this is at the head of the Regent Street accessories pack.
Michael Kors’ second standalone store in the UK paints the brand in a different, more accessible and democratic light.
It will find favour with Regent Street shoppers and, equally, should do well when something similar opens in Westfield London next month.