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The good, the bad & the ugly: Part 2

It’s time to name and shame Shopwatch’s lowest-scoring retailers for 2012.

One of the rules of market forces is that for every winner, there is probably somebody who, if not exactly a loser, does less well. Even in a rising market, success for some implies a tricky time for others. Shopwatch seems to have obeyed this maxim to the letter during the last 12 months. While there were four ‘winners’ that managed to broach the 40/50 barrier, there were an equal and opposite number of stores that failed to reach the 30/50 mark. While not disastrous scores, there is no stretch of the imagination by which these stores could be described as stars, and there is a sense that things could be so much better.

Bosideng, South Molton Street, London: 29/50

Bosideng, South Molton Street, London

Bosideng, South Molton Street, London

Imagine that you’ve decided to enter a new market about which you know very little. You are amazingly successful in your home territory, with thousands of stores and a customer base that seems to have an unflagging appetite for your merchandise. So why not transplant that which you know and love into the new market? What could possibly go wrong?

To judge by the debut of Chinese fashion retailer Bosideng, which took the place of the former Hog in the Pound pub at the top end of South Molton Street, quite a lot. By any standards, this wedge-shaped building is a dramatic addition to the area, but within it seems to fit few of the norms you’d expect of a retailer making landfall in this country.

Scant attention appears to have been paid to the fact that this is not China, and some of the graphics look as if they might be more at home in a central Asian republic than a location just off Oxford Street. Couple this with stock that also seems to have little do with current UK fashion norms and you have a formula that seems to hold little appeal for local shoppers, and has been consistently empty since opening.

Miss London, Guildford: 29/50

Miss London, Guildford

Miss London, Guildford

This was a store that looked odd in the space it occupied on Guildford’s historic high street.

A quick chat to the staff revealed it was not a temporary store and that it would be here for the long game. A further enquiry with the local planning office seemed to point in the opposite direction, however, and certainly there was little about the store’s interior that made the onlooker feel that either design or money had been thrown at it.

The merchandise on offer was relatively low price, and might kindly be described as fashionable rather than fashion. It did look as if a supplier had decided to open a store in an area with high footfall in the hope of clearing some excess inventory. No such luck. The store was not busy, and in spite of the curious decision to encase the heads of mid-store mannequins in cardboard boxes, little had been done that appeared to be having the effect of pulling people in off the streets.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the store has now closed - it was almost totally at odds with everything Guildford High Street is about.

Golfino, South Molton Street, London: 29/50

Golfino, South Molton Street, London

Golfino, South Molton Street, London

Back on South Molton Street, one of 2012’s other new additions to the fashion thoroughfare was Golfino. As a brand, Golfino has been around for a long time, and is one of those European sports labels that shoppers
may know of but don’t know about. For golfing enthusiasts, the arrival of this flagship store should have been a positive addition to the area, even allowing for some very ambitious pricing on the stock.

That, however, was the real problem. For those feeling inclined to part with hundreds of pounds for relatively simple items, perhaps this is the way to go, but you would expect an interior that matches the aspirational nature of the ticket prices. Not so in Golfino. This small store was divided into two by a screen, immediately making the interior feel cramped and bursting at the seams.

The shop was also amazingly low cost in its appearance: this was a store that appeared to have been created at almost no cost whatsoever, and the portioned nature of the interior only added to this feeling. There are undoubtedly those who will be loyal to the brand, but none of them appeared to be in the shop on the day of visiting.

Forever 21, Westfield Stratford City, London: 26/50

Forever 21, Westfield Stratford City, London

Forever 21, Westfield Stratford City, London

Long lines of reduced merchandise, all of which is displayed TK Maxx-style on parallel bars, greeted the visitor when this store was visited last February. Taking up two floors, this is a cavernous space; what seemed apparent was that little effort had been made to create merchandise areas or zones - instead, shoppers just seemed to happen upon things.

The merchandise displays were also remarkable for their uniformity, with almost no variation in equipment height on either floor, making this the retail equivalent of a prairie.

As for the menswear, if you did manage to find it, it was effectively relegated to a secondary zone, making it perhaps the most uninspiring part of the shop. There may have been attractive pieces, but nothing here was likely to inspire the average shopper to dig deep.

Forever 21 caused quite a stir when it opened its Oxford Street emporium in July 2011, and it has certainly benefitted from the area’s high footfall. The same, sadly, cannot be said for the Westfield Stratford City branch - this should be so much better.

Sandro Homme, Notting Hill, London: 25/50

Sandro Homme, Notting Hill, London

Sandro Homme, Notting Hill, London

The year’s low point came with a visit to Sandro Homme in the heart of chi-chi Notting Hill. The Sandro womenswear shop nearby was packed with the area’s well-heeled denizens, but this store was completely empty. A quick inspection showed that price and a singularly unimaginative layout were more than likely
the main culprits for this state of affairs.

Almost everything about the offer seemed expensive even by Notting Hill standards. The other key point was that the styling variation may have been subtle, but perhaps rather too much so: the men’s suits at the back of the store all looked more or less the same.

This store has been carved out from the side of a church , with a long glass window along one of its elevations.

This also failed to inspire, however. To improve matters, it might almost be a case of forgetting what has been done and starting from scratch.

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