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F&F, Tesco Extra, Watford

Can the supermarket’s fashion offer entice shoppers away from the baked beans at its much-vaunted new store?

THE BASICS

Store design In-house

Size 8,500 sq ft

Store reopened August 12, 2013

Reason for visiting A fashionable family offer

A lot has been written about the refurbished Tesco Extra on the outskirts of Watford, most of it about the bakery,
the fresh produce area and homewares. Yet the store also features an enormous F&F with the now-familiar ‘floating fascia’ that really does function as a shop-in-shop.

In the flurry of novelty that surrounds almost every aspect of this store, the F&F section has been, to some extent, overlooked. But it is a vital part of the offer and for those who have been to the standalone F&Fs in the Czech Republic (in Prague and Brno), it is clear that the UK organisation has been watching what has been done in that arena closely.

At this time of year, as usual, Tesco has a very substantial back-to-school offer. This is entirely separate from the F&F area, but it is adjacent to it, meaning that both elements of the in-store offer can benefit from their proximity.

Format and visual merchandising

The blueprint for what’s on view in Watford was set back at the end of 2012. In its newly opened Extra store in Woolwich, Tesco unveiled an F&F shop-in-shop that was in the middle of the store and which featured a ‘floating fascia’ to mark the transition from other parts of the space into the F&F area. Practically, this meant that shoppers passed beneath an F&F-branded frieze as they headed into the clothing area and although the whole thing was open-sided, this did promote the sense of in-store differentiation. In Watford the 8,500 sq ft F&F actually has a cafe, the back-to-school space and a wall on three of its sides, meaning that the frieze only spans one side, giving the whole a rather greater sense of permanence.

As far as the visual merchandising is concerned, this large area features a series of stock-heavy units that are, for the most part, based on a series of modular frames that can be flexed according to the space that is available in any particular branch.

And as far as navigation is concerned, large fashion-shoot graphics on the mid-shop equipment and 3D letters spelling words around the perimeter make finding your way around pretty straightforward. The words - “DENIM”, “JERSEY” and suchlike - are very similar to what was done in the Czech standalone F&Fs.

Note should also be made of the large screen with video content at the back of the store and the shoe gondolas, which do look as if they might have been influenced by what New Look does in its stores.

The final element is the space itself. There is a lot of it and Tesco has resisted the temptation to overcrowd.

  • 7/10

Product

When Barbouresque waxed jackets cost £35, a quilted country jacket comes in at £28 and an autumnal floral print dress will set the shopper back just £16, it is immediately apparent that you are in supermarket fashion land.

The point perhaps is that while things are undoubtedly cheap, the F&F range is also good at replicating many of the major trends that are to be found on the high street. For women, a visit to Dorothy Perkins, for example, would involve seeing much that is similar.

The minor downside in all of this is that while F&F is a big offer that aims to clothe the whole family - and perhaps in part because of the lighting - it does all look a bit subdued in terms of colour. The stock is not entirely assisted by the shopfit in this instance, with the overhead spotlights meaning that particular elements may shine out, but the overall effect is low-key.

All of this notwithstanding, you are still in a supermarket and when a pair of patent peep-toe court shoes are £12, there will always be a ready audience.

  • 8/10

Service

There is none. Or at least there is no service in terms of there being a member of staff on hand to help you with an enquiry. On the evening of visiting there were in fact just two Tesco employees who had been charged with looking after the area and one was constantly hovering close to the cash desk.

It is necessary to recalibrate conventional expectations of service when it comes to a supermarket’s clothing offer.

The fact that most sizes in most styles were available and that the whole enterprise looked relatively tidy meant this was about as good as might have been expected.

  • 5/10

Does it work?

Of course it does, particularly when the levels of footfall in the rest of the shop are considered. There are sufficient shoppers passing the ‘front door’ of this shop-in-shop to ensure that if the product is halfway decent, then a venture across the threshold will follow.

It also manages to have a sufficiently different ambience from the rest of the shop to make this feel as if you have left Tesco. That said, and in spite of some workmanlike visual merchandising, the sense that you are viewing a supermarket offer remains. It is quite difficult to see how this might be done otherwise, but it is a mild problem.

  • 6/10

Total score: 26/40



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