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Dune, Trafford Centre, Manchester

The footwear chain has a fresh store format on show that employs a few new tricks in an attempt to stand out in the crowded mid-market arena.

Rachael Slaney, head of marketing at Dune, says that when it comes to footwear retailing there “is not a lot of innovation out there”. She may have a point, but it’s fair to say that both Harrods and Selfridges, in their different ways, make a good fist of things, and as you head down the price chain, both Kurt Geiger and Topshop are also worth taking a look at.

Nonetheless, there is quite a lot that is lacklustre in the world of footwear retailing. And, conscious perhaps of some shortcomings in this direction, Dune has unveiled a new format in Aberdeen, Westfield Stratford City and Manchester’s Trafford Centre that is designed to combat this. Of this trio, the Trafford Centre store is the largest, and not only stocks the full Dune range but provides a snapshot of a new look that is going to be rolled out across the 62-store estate in the coming months.

Dune is a determinedly mid-market operation and as such faces some stiff competition on almost any high street you might care to mention. The design solution it has arrived at is certainly different from the alternative vision that was revealed when One New Change first welcomed City of London shoppers last year. That had an altogether darker look and feel, and this new store is something of a shot in the arm for a brand that has perfectly good product but which, from time to time, lacks something on the store interior front.

Key looks and merchandise mix

As a mid-market operation, prices are where you’d expect them to be, with men’s and women’s styles starting at about £60 and heading up to £165 on the day of visiting, the latter being sufficient to secure a pair of warm, lined knee-length women’s boots.

The collection is very focused – which is either a good thing or means the range is somewhat narrow, depending on your perspective of what’s on offer. For women, the offer is about stilettos, in everything from leopard skin to silver glitter, and a lot of boots. Between these two extremes there are flats, many with more party glitter, ballet pumps and wedge-meets-stiletto styles. For the most part, boots are knee-length, with buckles and lace-up details featuring on a number of designs.

Things are more restrained for men, with the extreme being some of the highly pointed lace-up brogue styles that Dune has been stocking variations of for about three years now. The men’s offer is also more clearly delineated in terms of the distinction between casual and formal, with all of the more occasion-based styles on low plinths in the mid-shop, while boots and rugged lace-up alternatives are displayed around the perimeter.

In spite of there being a relatively large amount of space to play with in this generously proportioned shop, the ranges are quite narrow, particularly for women, although most key looks are covered.

Score 6/10

Visual merchandising

The first thing you see as you approach Dune is shoes, lot of them, and they are all upside down. There is a catwalk attached to the ceiling, which runs from the back of the shop to the entrance, and along its length brightly coloured stilettos are paraded. This is both good and bad as far as the store is concerned, since, as Slaney points out, there will always be a shopper who points at a pair of shoes attached to the ceiling and says “I want them” – only for them to be unavailable and massively out of reach. The ploy is eye-catching and continuing it out of the shop and onto the logo across the store front is different from what other footwear retailers are doing in the Trafford Centre.

Worth noting too are the stepped ‘rises’ (mini-plinths) of different sizes and colours used to display shoes around the perimeter shelves and on the low mid-shop tables. Not only do these show the shoes off to an advantage, but they are easily remerchandised or replaced as the season’s colours dictate.

Score 7/10

Service

Well-groomed, pleasant and willing to help, all of the staff in this store were busy and there were plenty of shoppers for them to attend to. As this is a single-shoe selling operation, service is a vital and integral part of the proposition and stock knowledge proved good.

Slaney says hand-held “look-ups” will be given to staff in the near future, meaning a retreat to the stockroom will only be needed if a size is available. This should mean the service becomes very slick indeed.

Score 8/10

Store appeal

There is nothing to object to in this store, and the decision to give men’s footwear an area on the left-hand side (occupying roughly a third of the total space) with its own entrance is a nice touch. The interior is spacious and the use of lightboxes with lifestyle graphics attached to the columns is good. The store design is by London/Edinburgh consultancy Four By Two, and the use of an upscale palette of materials including oak-planked flooring and glossy suspended shelving in the mid-shop makes this an attractive interior.

The finish is high gloss, whether it’s the mirror-fronted cash desk, the spots recessed into the central overhead raft, or the mirror-edged niches set into the walls. The strings of LED lights set into the underside of the perimeter shelves provide gentle illumination for the stock and mean that while things are indeed glam, they are not vulgar.

Score 7/10

Would I buy?

Dune manages to create an interior that is a good vehicle for the stock it has on offer, and this blend of environment and product will prove attractive to many. It also happens to be a considerable step on, if that’s the right phrase, for the footwear retailer and succeeds in refreshing the brand.

Score 7/10

Verdict

Many Dune stores are in need of a makeover and, while the stock measures up, there is still work to be done before other branches are brought up to this standard. As a mid-market proposition, the shopfit for the Trafford Centre store does much to make this a store that should be on the list when footwear shopping calls. 

35/50

Essentials

Address The Trafford Centre, Manchester

Store design Four By Two

Similar branches Aberdeen and Westfield Stratford City

Ambience Contemporary glam

Standout feature White catwalk ceiling raft

Portfolio 62 stores in the UK

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