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High & Mighty, London

The chain for tall and large men has revamped its flagship as its new owner, mail-order group N Brown, looks to grow beyond its 14-store UK presence

High & Mighty is one of those names that seems to have been around since the Jurassic and, within retailing’s accelerated time frame, it has. The retailer was actually established in 1956, making it one of the high street’s more venerable names. Except that were it not for the intervention of catalogue retailer

N Brown in 2009, which bought it for £1.6m, High & Mighty would have become a memory. But now it is on the expansion trail once more and plans are in place to grow its 14-strong portfolio to 25 stores over the next three years.

Evidence of this burgeoning confidence can be seen on the Edgware Road in central London, where the High & Mighty flagship has just emerged from a six-week makeover, growing in the process from 3,000 sq ft to 3,500 sq ft. There has in fact been a High & Mighty store on this thoroughfare since 1959 and the store has occupied its current location since the mid-1970s.

As the name suggests, this is a shop for the tall and outsize male and there were plenty of them in store on the day of visiting. They were probably there, in part, owing to contact having been made through the retailer’s database. Given its offer, this is that rarity in the fashion world, a destination store - you visit this one because you have to, probably not because you want to.

As such, and allowing for the forecast explosion of obesity in the UK, a steady stream of customers heading here seems on the cards.

Key looks and merchandise

Fashionable, rather than fashion, is the watchword for this store. The merchandise ranges from what might be described as casual classic to formal, and while there is colour in evidence, you can understand why this might be the case - outsize shoppers, in particular, will have little desire to advertise their status by donning outlandish styles or hues.

The casual element of the offer is at the front of the shop and consists, for the most part, of jeans, with £99 being a significant jeans price point. Polo shirts are also available in multiple colours. Checked shirts play a major part too and, further back into the store, footwear, both formal and sporty, is displayed on two perimeter slat-wall modules.

The back half of the store is about formalwear, with suits, ties, a shirt wall featuring multiple stylings, and jackets and trousers. The range is surprisingly broad, albeit conservative in tone. The major point is that prices are higher than on the high street and the stock is branded. The price points are a straightforward reflection of the greater consumption of fabric used in the production of outsize garments and the brands, including Henri-Lloyd, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren and Ben Sherman, speak a little of a retailer that doesn’t quite have the scale to produce private label. Nonetheless, this is an encompassing offer that allows the customer to kit himself out from head to toe.

Score 7/10

Visual merchandising

This is standard stuff and although ideas have been taken from elsewhere, there is nothing in the store that will really make the shopper stop and take notice. The open-fronted wardrobe fixture that houses part of the jeans range is typical in this respect. Different jeans styles have been hung using butcher’s hooks along a rail. This works fine in slightly more edgy stores and probably wouldn’t look out of place in perhaps Diesel or Firetrap (although it’s possibly a little old-fashioned now), but it looks odd in the context of High & Mighty Edgware Road.

Display standards are being carefully maintained, but there is nothing being done here that you won’t find in the great mass of high street shops.

Score 5/10

Service

It was a Thursday afternoon and there were plenty of staff on hand to help those in need of assistance. Your correspondent is neither unusually tall or large and yet was made to feel welcome and wanted in equal measure. For those who were shopping, service was being provided efficiently and smartly. All of the staff were in suits and nobody was being left to wonder if their size might be in stock. High & Mighty is a serviced, rather than self-service operation, and in this store the strategy is clear to see.

Score 8/10

Store appeal

Walking into High & Mighty on the Edgware Road is a little like stepping back in time. We may be in 2010, but the shopfit, designed in-house, according to managing director Gill Politis, belongs to another era. The stained-wood open-fronted wardrobes that occupy a large part of the perimeter are a small piece of 1980s store-design thinking - nothing wrong with it, it’s just nothing new.

The positive has to be the central cash-and-wrap point, a square with curved corners, which at least makes the business of shopping relatively appealing. But whoever was responsible for the point-of-sale material around the perimeter needs to rethink. Putting a sign above jeans that states “jeans”, or one that says “shirts” above shirts and so on and so on, is blindingly obvious. It might have been better to leave the space empty or to put up additional graphic.

All of this and the high levels of ambient light give the store a retro feel, but not in a good way.

Score 5/10

Would I buy?

Perhaps. The branded stock is unremarkable, but if you’re looking for a range of well put together basics, then High & Mighty is as good as the great majority of traders. The storefit might not make you feel terribly wanted, but the service certainly would and it would be a tussle between these two that might decide whether you buy or not. The problem this store really has is that even the blue fascia is not special. An answer to the demand ‘Give me a reason to come into your shop’ isn’t really offered.

Score 6/10

Verdict 31/50

High & Mighty’s revamped store on the Edgware Road will continue to do reasonably while it remains a destination store, but it might find the tide turning against it if some of the bigger chains were to take the tall and large category seriously.

Essentials

Address 145-147 Edgware Road, London W2

Size 3,500 sq ft

Target shopper Larger and taller males

Revamp period Six weeks

Store design In-house

High & Mighty owner N Brown

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