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Accessorize, Oxford Street

What was just another shop on London’s main retail strip has been given a makeover, turning the accessories retailer into a true destination.

Accessorize has had a shop just along from Bond Street tube for ages. It’s always looked relatively attractive, but there was also a sense it was just another store on London’s Oxford Street - a bit player in a very large cast. Just over a week ago, however, it reopened following a makeover, with startling results.

Shoppers were flowing through the doors into a three-storey shop that succeeds in making the bits and pieces that you add to complete an outfit less of a jumble sale and much more of a serious, but amusing, proposition. This is not the largest Accessorize - that’s in Westfield London - but the staff were all referring to it as a flagship and it would be hard to disagree.

Accessories should be about fun and the Oxford Street store raises a smile from the moment you enter. Couple this with collections that range from true pocket money pieces to well-styled beachwear, and you have a store that looks set to be a destination.

This Accessorize branch may have the same footplate as formerly, but this is a totally different store. You’d be hard pushed to find better along Oxford Street, although Topshop Oxford Circus will continue to give this one a considerable run for its money, albeit probably for a marginally younger crowd.

Key looks and merchandise

The store is divided by merchandise type, with beachwear and associated accessories on the first floor, bags and jewellery on the ground floors and a very large offer of everything from sunglasses to necklaces in the substantial basement.

Starting on the top, the ‘Paradise Beach’ floor is about floral cotton dresses, long and short, where £50 will fetch you the top of the range - a strapless cotton maxi with printed flowers on a blue background. If prints are just too much, there are also plains, and short playsuits also feature. Having bought the dress, the choice of sandals (not a single gladiator style in sight) is large, and prices range from £8 to £38 - incorporating everything from rubber flip-flops to bejewelled sandals. If the mood grabs you, this can be topped with a plain straw cowboy hat in three styles, from £18 to £22.

Head downstairs and it’s possible to pick up a pair of earrings for £3, but, for the most part, the many options appear to hover around £10. This is a good ‘semi-ethnic’ offer that does not overstep the boho-hippy mark - although it’s easy to understand the brand’s heritage. Easy, too, to pick up a handbag from the many on offer in the mid-shop. Prices at this Accessorize top out at £99, which buys a leather bag, but £30 to £40 is closer to the norm for many of the lines.

Finally, the basement is an accessories cornucopia, with thousands of SKUs all vying for attention. It is hard to categorise this floor, becuase this is an enormous offer, but it is a good one.

Score 8/10

Visual merchandising

Accessories can look a bit of a mess, particularly if there are insufficient staff on hand to make sure everything remains in the right place. No such danger here, where the displays not only look good, but also appear scrupulously tidy.

The thing about this store, however, is the manner in which it manages to take what should be a fairly prosaic visual merchandising modus operandi and make it interesting. In the basement, almost the entire perimeter is composed of slatwall panels, which can look awful, but the abundance of merchandise and how it is organised means you hardly notice it. Good accessories merchandising should be about promoting this feeling of abundance, and the basement mid-shop also manages to achieve this.

But pride of visual merchandising place has to go to the top floor, where props include a turquoise Acapulco chair, filled with brightly embroidered cushions, and leather suitcases, propped open and used as display features.

The clear and regimented organisation of the sandal wall is also noteworthy. If you were in the market for this kind of footwear, the display would get you reaching for your purse.

Score 8/10

Service

It’s always nice when staff are enthusiastic about their store. There was a real sense of pride - for instance, when reaching the top floor, you are greeted with ‘Welcome to Paradise Beach’.

It was the first day of trading for the new-look store so you’d expect this treatment, but both shoppers and staff seemed genuinely happy - not something you find in many stores. And, if you needed help, it was there in depth, with a smile and good product knowledge.

Score 8/10

Store appeal

Without a doubt, the best thing about this store is the top floor. The combination of stripped, untreated wooden floorboards and white painted wood backdrops for the perimeter complement the product perfectly. This floor also has the advantage of large windows that allow natural daylight to flood in.

All three floors have a service counter that plays with Accessorize’s Indian ethnic heritage to provide a brightly coloured, backlit collage-like feature bearing the word ‘love’.

The ground floor and basement carry signage studded with film star dressing room-style light bulbs to provide in-store navigation. Add to this a good use of light boxes and whimsical wallpaper, and this is a well thought-through interior.

If there were a reservation, it would be the low ceiling in the basement, but, this being a basement, it’s hard to see how else things might have been done.

Score 8/10

Would I buy?

Definitely. It’s rare to find a store that balances good looks with a competent range and friendly staff, but this one pulls it off. And all this within a mass-market environment. There is also the substantial advantage that Accessorize continues to offer products at prices that make sense for everyday shopping.

Score 9/10

Verdict 41/50

Accessorize has more or less reinvented its Oxford Street presence with this store and looks set to do well as a result. If you’re looking for a store that understands its customers, this is an object lesson.

 

Essentials

Location 386 Oxford Street, London W1N

Number of floors Three

Standout feature The ‘Paradise Beach’ floor

Launch date February 17

Most difficult achievement Relocating the staircase

Project time Six weeks

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