Can the value retailer hold its own among the department store’s high-end brands?
Address Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1A
Floor space 1,100 sq ft
Design Primark working with Selfridges and HMKM
Ambience Discount luxury
Think denim and for many of those in the know that will mean 14½ oz, that being the weight traditionally used for five-pocket western stylings. And indeed, take a look around the new Denim Studio at Selfridges and much of the offer will be made from this quality. Not at Primark, however.
There is a Primark womenswear shop-in-shop at Selfridges and anything but the most cursory inspection of the merchandise will suffice to tell the shopper that almost all of the offer is composed of fabric that is much lighter than 14½ oz. And lighter weight means lower prices.
The real question is whether the Primark area is a benefit to the Denim Studio, which features jeans that in some cases have a price tag that runs into the thousands. The point should be coupled with a query about whether the value fashion retailer has done anything different from what it does at its own stores nearby.
The fact that Primark and Selfridges share a common Canadian owner does go some way towards explaining its appearance in Selfridges, but as a brand, Primark still has to cut it to be given space in the world’s best department store.
Concept and visual merchandising: 7/10
The Primark denim department in Selfridges does stand as a discrete area, thanks to a walkway that separates it from the rest of the Denim Studio. Primark denim serves to democratise the Denim Studio - there really is something for everyone in this part of Selfridges, but a line has, effectively, been drawn between it and rest of the offer.
That said, there is almost nothing to mark it out as being in any way different from the (much) higher-priced brands that are merchandised in close proximity to this area. With video screens, tongue-in-cheek graphics and laid and hanging presentation, the visual merchandising is in fact better than a number of the other brands that are on offer. The Denim Studio was created by London consultancy HMKM, which worked with Primark on the shape and form of this shop-in-shop.
Although the stock is the same, the presentation is very different from what is done in the Primark standalone stores on Oxford Street. In Selfridges, three members of staff are dedicated to the department. This may be the case in the standalone stores, but you’ll have to look long and hard to spot a member of staff, as they are
in signally short supply and, for the most part, are restocking shelves. This, therefore, is about service as well as low price, even if the offer is the same as across the street.
Also worth noting is the self-service checkout - which works in exactly the same manner as a supermarket. It is also fair to remark that in the course of several visits, your correspondent has never seen this facility in use - the human touch, it appears, is preferable.
A trifling £7 secures the Primark Selfridges shopper a pair of jeggings (as it does in any other Primark store), while £13 will be sufficient for a top-of-the-range pair of skinny jeans in any wash you might care to mention.
Between these two extremes, it is possible to choose from high-waisted skinny jeans, push-up skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans and on and on … and you don’t have to be skinny - sizes go up to 20 in many of the options.
There are also coloured jeans and a range of denim tops and denim-related merchandise, for those who hanker after the double denim look.
Why has it been done?
This question is one that might at first befuddle the onlooker, but there is a strategy in introducing discount into a luxury environment. For starters, Primark is at the heart of what has been referred to as ‘Primarni’, the high-low fashion tendency that sees luxury teamed with low-price merchandise, and this store makes this trend a one-stop shop.
Then there is the matter of introducing those Selfridges shoppers who might turn their noses up at visiting a Primark store to the brand in an environment that they might find more to their liking. This is certainly Primark, but both ambience and service are very different from the standalone stores.
From a value brand perspective, there is much to be said for not ruling out emporia such as Selfridges; it might just work.
Does it work? 8/10
Certainly. Walking the Denim Studio on a quiet and hot and humid Tuesday it was apparent this was the only part of the studio that was being shopped. At these prices the denims on offer in Primark Selfridges are impulse purchases, grabbed in between considering whether to buy a pair of Paige or J Brand jeans, or maybe both.