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Oasis, Argyll Street, London

The intriguing new interior at the womenswear chain’s flagship, complete with iPads and limited-edition garments, is likely to put it back on must-visit lists.

There’s been a branch of womenswear chain Oasis on Argyll Street for as long as most people would care to remember, and over the years it has evolved. In many ways, as it has grown older, its interior has followed suit, changing into something that was rather brasher than the essentially feminine brand that many might remember from the 1990s.

Now it has morphed again and, under the leadership of managing director Liz Evans, the store is a standard bearer for a new-look Oasis, which is aimed at attracting a more fashionable shopper. Physically, this has involved a lot of change, but it is the details that really impress and the use of technology as part of the design template.

Evans says the store is intended to allow “girls to have fun” and it is fair to say that the shopping experience is a deal more eye-catching than many operating in this area of the retail spectrum. It also incorporates Oasis owner Aurora Fashions’ 90-minute delivery promise – which allows shoppers buying merchandise via the many iPads dotted around the store to have their purchases delivered to their homes within the allotted time or they have the garments for free.

Clearly, if everyone were to buy this way, Oasis would see its profits eaten up by the courier company, but as Evans remarks: “It’s great PR.”

The other point about what has been done in Argyll Street is that it is a blueprint for the rest of the chain, so those visiting this branch can expect to see something similar in their local store in the near future.

Just one caveat: if you’ve got a good-looking store with a live window featuring Claire Nixon, a Hull University craft graduate who knits, then why put a load of purple balloons across the store front? They add nothing and stop you seeing what’s going on.

Key looks and merchandise mix

The store divides the merchandise both in terms of wearing occasion and the physical environment. On a practical basis, this means the ground floor is about daywear, with an interior to match, while upstairs party’s the thing.

And as well as this season’s Oasis ranges, available in a store near you, there are also limited-edition garments at the top end, which are exclusive to this shop. Each piece in this limited collection bears a swing tag detailing that it is number 123 of 150, for instance – it’s the kind of thing you might expect to see in a chi-chi art gallery in some of London’s ritzier addresses.

The thing, however, about the Argyll Street store is that while this may sound as if high prices will be involved, they are not. One of the more expensive limited-edition dresses is on sale at £150 – a price that would be regarded by many as inexpensive.

More generally, there are nice touches throughout, such as the integration of the footwear collection into the main body of the shop on the ground floor, instead of creating a separate footwear store.

Score 7/10

Visual merchandising

From the moment you approach this store, there are things to look at and be surprised by. For the opening few days last week, Claire Nixon, the aforementioned knitter, sat patiently on a plain wood chair doing her thing. The results of her labours were around her and the theme was continued in-store where large balls of wool were to be found beneath the chunky Aran knits on the store’s left-hand ground floor wall.

Before you got to this point, however, note will have been made of what has been dubbed “the third window”. Just inside the door, this is a floor-to-ceiling glass screen to which a graphic has been applied. In front of this, a small army of mannequins was positioned in arrowhead formation. It was arresting and served as a good introduction. More mannequins were positioned on a staircase going nowhere that had been shoehorned into a space in the escalator well.

Elsewhere, the devil is in the detail. From the merchandise colour blocking to the use of a vintage chest of drawers on the ground floor, it’s interesting all round.

Score 8/10

Service

All the staff looked on brand in the predominantly party-led outfits that they were wearing and wore smiles that were almost as sparkly as the clothes. All to the good, but no visit to this store would be complete without mention of the service provided by the iPads. Shoppers were indeed playing with these and Evans said that on the first Saturday of trading following the revamp, 25% of the transactions had taken place via the machines, providing a real alternative to more traditional service.

Score 8/10

Store appeal

The first thing to say is that what has been done is a massive move on from where Oasis used to be. Whether it’s the cleaned-up store front with the removal of the somewhat brash pinkness that characterised what the passing shopper might have seen, or the internal mix of new fixturing and vintage furnishings, there is something to please most people.

Design consultancy Dalziel + Pow created this one and, with project features that include shifting the escalator from the mid-shop to the perimeter, laying a beautiful waxed oak floor and inserting a bank of fitting rooms with a real sense of occasion, this has been a major undertaking.

The only question mark might be the sheer density of the merchandising, but then space in this part of London does not come cheap.  

Score 8/10

Would I buy?

Personally, of course not, but there will be many who may do and what has been done in the Argyll Street store should be sufficient to put Oasis back on shoppers’ must-visit lists. Prices are within reach and the stock really enjoys a boost by being housed within a more fashion-forward environment. It is also midway along the path between Topshop’s high fashion mid-market offer and the designer collections at Liberty. As such, it should benefit from shoppers at both ends of the market.

Score 8/10

Verdict

Oasis has worked hard on creating a new look for its flagship store – one that will be portable and ensure it remains relevant for the shopper in her mid-20s and beyond. This is a step forward for a hardy high street perennial and parent company Aurora Fashions should feel confident. 

39/50

Essentials

Address 12-14 Argyll Street, London W1F

Size 5,500 sq ft

Number of floors Two

Store design Dalziel + Pow

First day of trading with new look October 15

Standout feature The ‘third’ window

Standout technology iPads

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