The Canadian footwear chain has opened a store that it claims is a flagship for thåe business in this country. But is it a true standard bearer?
Address 184 Oxford Street, London W1D
Store size 6,000 sq ft
Store design In-house
Standout feature The graphics package
Number of Aldo UK stores 18
Aldo has been in the UK since 2002 and in that time the Montreal-based footwear retailer has made its mark on this country, but mainly in London. Indeed, of the 18 stores that have sprung up since that time, nine are in the capital, and if you are a Londoner its branches will be a familiar sight.
Until a couple of weeks ago, Aldo’s flagship was in Covent Garden – a large unit just off Long Acre with dark wood fixturing, trading from a single floor. This has now changed and the new ‘flagship’ is on Oxford Street, a few moments east of Oxford Circus. There is another of the retailer’s outposts further along the street, across the road from John Lewis, but this is due to close in mid-August and for the time being is functioning as a clearance store.
Aldo is close to celebrating a decade as a European retailer, and according to a spokeswoman has France in its sights as a new market, although this has yet to be confirmed or any sites located. Meanwhile, this 6,000 sq ft store is the new standard bearer for the brand – although it currently does not stock a range that is as broad as the Covent Garden branch.
Key looks and merchandise mix
Aldo is probably the most mid-market footwear player on Oxford Street. It does not offer any kind of value proposition but, then again, neither does it hit the heights expected when you walk into many shoe shops in the area. From a practical perspective, this means the average price hovers around the £80 mark, with the ranges topping out at a little over £100 for both men and women.
For men the offer is clear, with separate perimeter modules for sandals, espadrilles, sneakers, brogues and pointy-toed modern formal shoes. There is a large area of crossover between the men’s and women’s offer, with espadrilles, sneakers and sandals all having heavy representation on the ground floor, home to the women’s offer.
For women, strappy gladiator styles, ‘flatforms’ and a reasonable range of high-fashion stilettos can be added to this, and both sexes can pick up accessories to go with their purchases, ranging from watches to bags and on to hats, necklaces and bracelet variants.
One of the more engaging elements is the small screens attached at hand height to the perimeter shelves. These allow a style’s barcode to be scanned to check if a size is in stock. If it is not, an alternative colour may be suggested. What is impressive is that for each style that appears on the screen appropriate accessories are also suggested – saving those who feel such things matter from a minor fashion crisis.
In September, the men’s offer will broaden with the introduction of the Mr B’s range (already in the Covent Garden store), which aims to provide shoppers with modern classics at more premium price points. All in all a competent, if unstartling, offering.
This is relatively simple stuff, at least on the men’s floor in the basement. Here it is almost entirely a matter of backlit perimeter modules – effective for the simple reason that in the basement ambient light levels are relatively low, and therefore highlighting the stock in this way is simple.
Upstairs, things are more complex owing to the much larger mid-shop space. In consequence a somewhat different modus operandi has been adopted. Plain white tables fill the centre-floor with pride of place given to wedges and flatform shoes at the front of the shop. Accessories also have a cluster of interlinking circular tables towards the rear of the floor, close to the till, catering for impulse shoppers.
Both floors had reductions when Drapers visited – it is Sale time – and in both instances the markdowns were located in a secondary perimeter area. Given this is predominantly a serviced self-browse offer, things seemed well set for customers.
Ready, willing and able would just about sum up what a shopper might expect of Aldo’s new Oxford Street emporium. The shop was busy but, unlike many mid-market shoe shops, there was no sense of pent-up frustration engendered by prolonged waiting times as shoppers hang around while their size is located. For the most part, with the exception of the entry-level sandals and canvas shoes, single shoes are displayed rather than pairs and, while this overcomes the shoplifting issue, the danger of lengthy wait times is ever-present unless the staff are quick on their feet. Everything seemed to be working smoothly, however.
This is a store of two parts, with a spacious area for women on the ground floor and a cramped men’s shop in the basement. Taken on its own, the women’s floor is classic white box, white floor stuff. The basement, directly beneath the street-level pavement, is largely about a glass and steel staircase, which dominates at every turn. Nothing really wrong with this, except it does rather overwhelm, even if it looks good.
On a more positive note, Aldo is very good at lifestyle graphics and these are displayed to advantage across this store, adding large splashes of colour.
Would I buy?
This is a fashionable offer and at these prices there is much to commend. This is a modern and simple design and shopfit and there is little that is going to militate against a purchase being made. Certainly, on the evidence of those in the store on the day of visiting, a purchase would seem on the cards.
A strong showing from the mid-market operator, although it is hard to see why this qualifies for the flagship label ahead of some of the chain’s other stores. This one will do well at a time when others competing in the same niche may struggle.