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Replay, Carnaby Street

The denim brand’s store in this young fashion mecca has been given a welcome revamp, but does it live up to last year’s excellent Paris flagship?

To be fair, Italian denim brand Replay set the bar at a dizzy height when it opened its flagship store in Paris on the Rue Etienne Marcel – on a street where it was surrounded by other jeaneries ranging from Levi’s to Chevignon. That was last year and now it has completed the revamp of its store on Carnaby Street, which it says is a “relaunched concept store”.

Quite aside from the question of how you relaunch a concept store which, by definition, probably can’t be relaunched as it’s a one-off, you have to ask the question about competition in the area. Stroll along London’s young fashion thoroughfare at the moment and a reasonable proportion of its length is taken up by denim brands with Pepe Jeans, Diesel, G-Star and Lee Jeans all having standalone units.

This is fine, if the store is like the one in Paris, which can thumb its nose at nearby rivals, if only because it starts with a huge inherent advantage – it is situated in a fine Belle Époque building. This isn’t the case in Carnaby Street, where most stores have relatively undistinguished single-height frontages and the display order of the day seems to be either futuristic or nostalgia.

To judge by the outside of the Replay store, it wants a slice of both, with deliberately distressed window surrounds combined with displays that may make thoughts turn to the future. Whichever is the case, being a (predominantly) denim retailer on Carnaby Street is an altogether more intense experience than in Paris, principally because everything is so close together. That and the fact that the building does not impress in the same way as the Paris flagship means that, in this area, for Replay the going is likely to be tougher.

Key looks and merchandise mix

A bit like rival Italian brand Diesel, if you head for Replay, in the first instance it’s likely to be a pair of jeans that is sought, and anything else is likely to be an add-on that seems to fit when visiting the store.

Working on this assumption, if you want skinny, bootcut or any other leg shape, male or female, it will all be here. Most of the denim washes are covered as well and all of this is given credibility by a good-looking range of lace-up boots and Ugg-influenced boots. Couple this with checked shirts, Native American-patterned knitwear and a small selection of padded jackets, and with possibly a few omissions you have the substance of a jeans-based casual range.

And there’s the problem. Almost everything in the store was very acceptable and entirely in line with the denim zeitgeist, but there really were few surprises. And you would be quite prepared to accept this if the interior didn’t look like an exercise in denim store design by numbers, even if it does carry the “relaunched concept store” label.

Replay’s prices have never been ‘fun-style’, so you’d expect fit to be a given, but it’s to the brand’s credit that a shopper at the cash desk admitted that he comes to the store because “Levi’s aren’t for me” and, presumably, jeans from this shop are. However, he was a man of considerably more mature years than might readily be associated with the brand.

Score 6/10

Visual merchandising

There are a lot of mannequins in this store, the bulk of them on the ground floor, and there’s even one that stares out from the window at passers-by. And for those paying attention to such things, if you’re a mannequin at Replay, to make the cut you need to be sporting a check shirt and jeans or a Clint Eastwood-style ethnic poncho. A hat is useful too.

All of them have been carefully thought through and are well styled, and the different levels at which the merchandise is presented is also easy on the eye. There is, in fact, little difference between the men’s and women’s visual merchandising approach – the female ranges are in the basement. This is a brand that delivers on the equality front.

The internally lit cubes around the shop are quite appealing, as are the wooden mid-shop tables, but pride of place has to go to the ground floor cash desk, a vintage-style cabinet divided into glass boxes that shows off the accessories to real advantage.

Score 7/10

Service

A customer rang up and something had clearly gone wrong. He was going to return an item and wanted to know how to go about it and what might be done about replacing it. The complaint was handled with exemplary care by the store manager, who seemed to make the shopper happy.

The same might be said of the shopper who wanted two pairs of jeans and a shirt, but who also wanted a discount. Again, this was dealt with tactfully, and in spite of no discount being given, a purchase was still made.

A minor complaint might be the fact that the fitting rooms don’t appear to have mirrors, and to see how you look in a pair of jeans you have to emerge – at which point a member of staff tells you how great you look in them. This was done with enthusiasm and humour however, and so is easily overlooked.

Score 8/10

Store appeal

The walls throughout the store looked as if they had been fashioned from pressed tin, but on close examination turned out to be moulded fibreglass. Equally, the overall impression was that much of the fixturing was about vintage pieces of wood and ‘found’ objects. They probably weren’t, but they did the job of making you feel you were in an environment where ‘handcrafted’ matters and that nothing had been left to chance.

As a total interior, this will not have been cheap to create and it certainly gives the competition a run for its money, but it does not lead.

Score 7/10

Would I buy?

I would buy in the Paris store, but no kind of impulse purchase would be made in this London emporium as, despite it being a pleasing interior with acceptable stock, there is plenty in the stores nearby that will also vie for attention at this price level. Interesting, but finally, and unfortunately, not entirely convincing.

Score 6/10

Verdict

The makeover of the Replay store on Carnaby Street was probably overdue and the outcome is generally positive, but this store does rather lack the wow factor that is on view in some of its neighbour’s outlets. Carnaby Street is a place where a brand should show off and there is a slight feeling that Replay has underplayed things here in a strenuous effort to be cool.

34/50

Essentials

Address 44-45 Carnaby Street, London W1F

Size 1,615 sq ft

Number of floors Two

Store type An “emotional Replay concept store”

Reason for visiting Because you’re on Carnaby Street

Outstanding feature The cash desk

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