It’s a little while since New Look revealed its store design hand with a new look New Look store in High Wycombe.
Address 500 Oxford Street, London W1C
Project completion November 9
Format design Checkland Kindleysides
Highlight The footwear department
Now, more than six months on, the revamp programme has reached London, and the store at the west end of Oxford Street that was originally a showpiece for then-zeitgeisty design practice Future Systems has been given a makeover.
And for those heading into the store via what remains one of the more arresting indoor/outdoor staircases along the strip, the vista is very different from way back when. It is also a lot more tech-enabled, in keeping with today’s zeitgeist and making this a fashion store that will have appeal to a new generation of shoppers. New Look has pretty much been to the brink in the last year or so, but results of late and the new store format do much to restore confidence.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
The more you look in this store, the more you see. The art of the visual merchandiser has been deployed at every turn, whether it’s the mannequins in white, open cube-shaped frames, or the gold wire
torsos used to display accessories. And then you notice that a few of the mannequins don’t actually have heads, and in place of these digital photo frames have been placed which bear images of faces. It’s a simple trick, but well thought out and does make you stop and stare, which surely is the purpose of any display. The staircase that leads up to the store is a functional piece of VM in itself – it looks good and you feel like an extra in a Busby Berkeley classic or perhaps a participant in Stars in their Eyes, depending on your age.
02 - CONCEPT
In spite of the über-glamour of the stairs, this is a white box interior given an overhaul. It’s also more of a meander than a shop (where shop is a verb), with no obvious routes through the space and it’s a case of picking your way through a benign sea of merchandise. The floor is in fact well signposted by a wide variety of different signals. The footwear department, housed in a semi-discrete space, has real presence at the back of the store.
03 - SERVICE
On the day of visiting, your correspondent was accompanied by several female colleagues, and the overriding impression of the service was positive, particularly at the till. It is of course easy to be enthusiastic on opening day and when Kelly Brook is due to make an appearance, but the service provided at all touch points was good. The other fact worth telling is that whenever help was needed, there was someone to ensure you weren’t left standing, something that can’t be said for many rivals that offer higher price points.
04 - PRODUCT
It’s winter, or at least it is at New Look, and if you’re in the mood for this season’s duffle coat or that pair of cheap but vertiginous heels for this year’s Christmas party, the store is a serious contender. And the ‘cheap’ word matters. This store is bang opposite central London’s first Primark and it needs to wear its value badge with pride, as well as being on trend. It does this, and the denim offer is especially noteworthy, if only for the whizzy-looking Bodymetrics scanner that enables shoppers to have their shape digitally assessed.
05 - COMPETITION
The competition at this end of the market on Oxford Street is very fierce indeed – whether it’s the brightly coloured commodity offer from Uniqlo, the Americana of Forever 21, or the panoply of disposable fashion from Primark – all is budget and prices are (very) low. The question is, does New Look measure up and does the new store ambience give it a sufficient point of difference to trump its rivals? And although this may seem like sitting on the fence, the answer is probably a qualified yes, as it may depend on what the shopper is looking for. Shoes, denim and outerwear all get a thumbs-up for value and style on this basis.
06 - VERDICT - A big improvement
New Look’s decision to open a first-floor store at this end of Oxford Street demanded a real showstopper of a staircase to drag eyes upwards from street level. First floor rents on Oxford Street are obviously more cost-effective, but only if reason is given to trip the light fantastic up the stairs. Assuming this is achieved, this is a much-improved store and New Look’s roll-out of the store design is bearing fruit. There is also a fair amount of additional digital collateral and knick-knackery to be added to this store, which should only be to the good.