Back in the day, if you’d mentioned the words republic and Yorkshire in the same breath, thoughts might have turned to Arthur Scargill, or perhaps some now defunct coal mines.
Address 65-68 Briggate, Leeds
Number of floorsThree
Brands Many and various
Store environment Branded urban market
Today, unless you are mid-40s or older, it is more probable the image that will spring to mind is of a fashion retailer, particularly if you are in Leeds.
Republic in 21st century Leeds is a three-storey temple to fashion of the kind that will find favour with those who like an offer to be modish, but for whom the value fashion credentials of, say, nearby Primark, may be a bridge too far. And this is a new look from the retailer, where, even more than previously, visual merchandising is to the fore and the link between terrestrial and online offer is explicit.
It also happens to benefit from its location in a fine-looking historic building.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
This may be a three-floor store, with womenswear and accessories on the ground and in the basement, and menswear on the first floor, but space is at a premium. Indeed, so much has been crammed into the store, with a lot of it arranged around the spiral staircase that dominates the mid-shop view on each floor, that the initial impression is of a fashion bazaar.
Groups of mannequins take up yet more square footage and a mix of low tables and higher-side hanging rails mean that while this is a varied storescape, it is busy – in fact, there is something different wherever you look. Note should be made of the windows too, which strike an appropriately urban skate-culture note.
02 - CONCEPT
The strategy that underpins this interior appears to be to create something that will put a distance between it and the value fashion offers in central Leeds as well as ensuring that you know where you are. To an extent, this is achieved, thanks to a very striking storefront. The problem is, that in spite of all this, there is a lot that is fashion generic about this interior and elements could certainly be more or less interchangeable with many of its rivals.
03 - SERVICE
Shoppers in this part of the market tend to prefer finding things for themselves – which is certainly the kind of behaviour this interior encourages. Service in this instance therefore equates to having things available in the right sizes and colours, and making it straightforward to buy something. On this reckoning, Republic does what it should. There is also the ‘E-store’ – three touchscreens on the ground floor that allow access to other elements of the retailer’s collections. Housekeeping standards were high.
04 - PRODUCT
This is a young fashion house of brands where names such as Lipsy, WESC, Fabric and Converse all appear. It is also a broad fashion church with no particular brand dominating. For men the overall ambience is a mix of street and skate fashion. For female shoppers the emphasis is upon urban fashion, with ditsy florals, cut-away denin shorts and camouflage prints all picking up on some of the new season’s trends. All of which is calculated to appeal to the student body, bolstered by a 20% student discount.
05 - COMPETITION
The real dilemma that faces Republic is the level of competition within a very short radius of its front door. Whether it’s Zara, Harvey Nichols, Primark or, very soon, a spanking new Topshop/Topman, there is plenty to choose from.
Couple this with the fact that Republic is about a curated offer of popular mid-market brands and the chances seem good that whatever is on sale here will be available in a very similar form just around the corner. It’s an unpalatable fact that young fashion’s mid-market is a very dense place in which to operate and there are always many options.
06 - VERDICT - The going may be tough
Republic’s new face is certainly interesting and from the outside this is a fine looking shop.
This has rather more to do with the building’s heritage than with the offer, however. Younger people may possess more disposable income, but it is hard to see what makes this store’s offer so very different from any of its competitors and therefore building and retaining brand loyalty among this most promiscuous of customer groups is a big ask. Whether this interior proves to be the kind of thing that will appear in other Republic cities remains to be seen.