An excellent designer offer, high street price tags and an attractive shopfit mean Debenhams is onto a winner with its first-ever pop-up store
A number of larger brands and retailers have played with pop-up shops over the past couple of years, with names such as Gap, Gucci and Jaeger all trialling temporary formats. To an extent, department stores have also joined the party, but almost all of them have opted to give up in-store space rather than create any kind of standalone pop-up.
On Thursday last week, however, Debenhams proved something of a mould-breaker when it unveiled Edition, a temporary store that, if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t have any idea of its provenance. Approach the store on Newburgh Street, the thoroughfare running parallel to Carnaby Street in central London that is home to a raft of indies and alternative brands, and you might be forgiven for thinking Edition is another example of the local tendency.
This is, however, a pop-up that will be open for a minimum of eight weeks and which Debenhams has a licence to operate for up to six months, according to Crawford Bryce, head of creative trends at the retailer. The store is a vehicle to launch womenswear collections from three designers new to Debenhams: Preen, Jonathan Kelsey and Jonathan Saunders. Following the pattern established by Designers at Debenhams, the offer is distinctly mid-market and very accessible when set against the upscale, modish collections you’d expect to find in this neck of the woods.
But what this pop-up store is really about is the launch of a new design concept, according to the retailer, aimed at bringing new and emerging design talent to mid-market shoppers.
The Edition range also launched in 30 Debenhams stores on Monday.
Key looks and merchandise mix
Given there are collections from three designers in the Edition store, it is remarkable how co-ordinated everything looks. The clothing is the work of Preen and Jonathan Saunders, while Jonathan Kelsey provides the accessories.
In terms of colour, it’s a matter of aqua blue, grey, faded lime/yellow and, naturally, black and white. From Jonathan Saunders, highlights include a printed T-shirt dress with a sequin front at a very reasonable £40 and a variety of jersey-based tops and dresses, starting at £28, all of which add weight to a strong offer. Among other things, Preen, the husband-and-wife duo that is Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, have produced the most expensive item, a tasselled cropped leather jacket at £190. However, this price tag is the exception and the bulk of Preen’s range comes in at under £50.
Bags start at just under £30 while footwear is between £45 and £65, with glam gladiator sandals and a peep-toe boot both looking like potential strong sellers from Jonathan Kelsey.
The point about all of this is the simple lesson that the right environment almost automatically enhances the stock it houses. What’s on view in the Edition pop-up is strong, but looks better because of where it is.
This is a small shop and the problem for any retailer operating on this scale is that visual merchandising uses a lot of space that could be used to display stock. Edition takes a relatively straightforward approach by making the centre of the shop a visual merchandising forum and using the perimeter to show off the stock.
Practically, this means wooden stepladders, a tailor’s dummy and a white chair in the mid-shop on which shoes, garments and white books are displayed, while the perimeter features colour-blocked ranges and a wall niche with a further display. White hardback books have the word Edition on them with a variety of messages ranging from ‘Jonathan Kelsey coming soon’, to ‘More stores available’. It’s simple but eye-catching stuff and all very tasteful. It’s a million miles away from what you’d expect to find in a Debenhams store.
It’s worth noting the window too. This is uncluttered, with a couple of dressed torsos and the Edition logo, picked out with one letter per window pane, in a white font on a black background.
The store had been open for a little over an hour on the day of visiting and it was raining heavily, two facts that militated against customers visiting the store. In fairness, it was about 10.30am and as the Carnaby Street area is known for not getting going until at least midday, the absence of shoppers was nothing to do with what was on offer.
That said, those in the store were very keen to tell Drapers about the shop and how it was intended to work - and they seemed to know about every piece of merchandise from price to styling, which bodes well for anyone who visits.
As noted with the visual merchandising, this is a simple store but it is the better for it, with deft touches such as the designers’ garment sketches used to form a kind of agitprop wallpaper, making everything quietly appealing. The space is sufficiently narrow for the rear sixth of the shop to have a rail and a black curtain slung across it, transforming it into a fitting room. Within, this too is simple, although the ‘Hello gorgeous’ message on the mirror is fun and unexpected.
Wooden floorboards and white walls complete the picture - even the overhead spotlights are white. This is a temporary store and clearly hasn’t cost much to put together, but it represents the acceptable face of white box and does allow the stock to shine.
Would I buy?
There are few reasons not to. Whether it’s the pricing, which makes everything else in the area look expensive, or the fact the store goes a long way towards making good clothing look better, this is the kind of place that should be a commercial
and aesthetic success. The question is whether the shoppers that frequent this store would do so if the collections were in a standard Debenhams branch.
Edition on Newburgh Street succeeds by dint of some fresh styling and also by its lack of obvious connection with Debenhams. It will probably trade for longer than the eight-week minimum period.
To see more pictures from this week’s Shop Watching, go to www.drapersonline.com/news/shopwatch