The lifestyle retailer’s refurbished Covent Garden flagship proves the ‘retail is detail’ cliché’ with a feat of visual merchandising that leaves nothing to chance
Probably the single most tiresome cliché you are likely to come across in the context of selling things from shops is that ‘retail is detail’. Of course it is, always has been and it’s hard to see a timewhen this will not be the case.
So it’s strange how frequently retailers seem to make a habit of ignoring this, and how boring stores can be as a consequence. After a shopper has seen the initial architecture, it is the detail - in the form of the visual merchandising, the fixturing and the use of graphics - that is likely to be the decider on whether it is worth staying in store to have a look around.
Dullness is not a quality likely to be levelled at Ted Baker. Generally, its stores are known for the way in which they draw shoppers through the doors by the use of irreverent window displays, while in store there is anything from dead animals to barbershops.
The premium retailer’s three-floor flagship on Floral Street in Covent Garden is full of the kind of detail that demands to be taken, if not seriously, then at least given the once or twice over.
It has just emerged from a store-wide makeover that has seen the interior themed and transformed. The outcome is spectacular, with the kind of attention to detail that shows the ‘retail is detail’ cliché still has some validity.
Key looks and merchandise mix
The thing that most people will probably think of when the name Ted Baker is uttered is dandy-esque menswear. So it’s no surprise that two of the store’s three floors are devoted to menswear: the basement for formal clothing and the ground floor for casualwear, while womenswear is on the first floor.
And if it is the dandy look that the visitor seeks, the chances are good that a men’s floral shirt will form part of any purchase. These are found all over the shop, starting at about the £90 mark for a more casual version and rising to £150 at the top end for a tailored shirt of the kind that can be worn with one of the many suits on offer in the basement.
Ted Baker is not a jeans-based brand, so if denim is your thing, it may be better to head around the corner to nearby Diesel, where the Ted Baker £85 lead-in price for the category is about the same, but the range is wider. For those of a more dressy bent, the men’s suiting range is wide and starts at £350 for a fairly basic single-breasted suit and heads up to just shy of £700 for a limited-edition style in a more select fabric.
On the first floor, the floral theme continues in womenswear, with printed dresses at a top price of £180. This is a good designer bridge collection and it’s hard not to shop all of the rails.
If the devil really is in the detail, then this is an exceptional example of the visual merchandiser’s art. Whether it’s the rails that are hung from the ceiling at different heights in the basement, trapeze style, or the red-flocked upright piano complete with song book, nothing has been left to chance. The majority of the suits in the basement are presented front facing around the perimeter while good use has been made of the many art deco cabinets that are scattered around the different floors.
Then consider the way in which complete merchandise stories have been created in the mid-shop with, say, sandals, a shirt, two further tops, a pair of trousers and a soft briefcase all displayed on the same table.
It is the theming of the individual floors that marks this store out as something of a visual merchandising tour de force. The women’s floor is a celebration of all things Hollywood and filmic with ribbons, strips of celluloid and vintage stills and movie cameras used to form the frontage of the cash desk. Downstairs, music is the theme, with instruments used to create both lights and graphics, while the cash desk frontage is filled with antique turntables.
The basement has something of the crypt about it, with rabbits appearing from top hats and Dali-style lights that appear to have melted and flowed over the edges of the shelves on which they are situated. Something at every turn.
It was symptomatic of the enjoyment that is to be had from wandering around this shop that the staff appeared to be enjoying themselves as well. This proved to be a positive in spite of one floral shirt-clad member of staff posing to have his photo taken. When a shopper appeared at the ground floor cash desk, service was on-hand almost instantly and with a smile.
There is a lot to catch the eye about this store and it starts from the ground up. Both the first and ground floors are wooden while the basement is formed of highly polished concrete. The latter also incorporates trompe l’oeil rugs that appear to have been laid on it, but which turn out to be decals that sit beneath the varnish that gives the floor its sheen.
And it is in the basement that trompe l’oeil is at its most apparent. None of the fixtures actually touch the floor. The mid-shop tables have been attached to pillars or walls and have feet left dangling about a foot above the ground, while in the fitting rooms, what looks like fuzzy antique wallpaper turns out, when 3-D glasses are donned, to be a pattern where elements jump out at you. The vaulted ceiling and exposed brickwork are used to confirm the subterranean setting.
If it’s glamour you want, ribbons formed from the same fabric as is used in some of the garment linings have been used to create floor-to-ceiling partitions, breaking the space into manageable chunks on the first floor.
Would I buy?
Well yes, probably. Ted Baker has never been an off-the-peg impulse purchase unless you are particularly well-heeled. That said, it comes close and there is enough about this store to ensure that as temptation hits you, you will probably emerge clutching a Ted Baker bag.
Both ranges and store add up to a powerful proposition for the Covent Garden shopper.
There can be little doubt that an overhaul on this scale will not have been cheap to carry out, but it has been worth it and was probably overdue.
Ted Baker proves in this store that it continues to have the ability to surprise with a range of detail that makes a visit a source of considerable amusement.
Address Floral Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E
Number of floors Three
Refurbishment Conducted in stages, with floors being closed one at a time
Highlight The 3-D antique wallpaper in the fitting rooms, where the elements jump out at you
CompetitionPaul Smith has his London flagship on the opposite side of Floral Street