Bang on trend, in tune with its cool customers’ tastes. But it struggles with the cash-strapped.
Here’s an example of how well River Island knows its customers. Just as Drapers starts to criticise its dark window display (how will that draw in shoppers?), three customers (in 30 seconds) say how much they love the low-back, black, sequined dress. The grunge look is given pride of place inside – skinny jeans with pyjama-like stripes and printed T-shirts mingle with faux-leather shift dresses and pencil skirts. Splashes of orange and printed trousers lift the display, while saturated brights keep colour alive in the middle of the store.
River Island matches Topshop with an equally impressive store. The glazed, green brickwork exterior stands out and the interior doesn’t disappoint. Cool features include curved, brick arches and a tweet mirror in the changing rooms, where shoppers can tweet pictures of themselves. Product is largely segmented into trends, while basics are split into categories.
Chief executive Ben Lewis blamed the retailer’s fall in profits last month on rising youth unemployment, but it’s difficult to see how it can cut priaces, which are in line with young fashion rivals. Trying to undercut the value players is a different ball game. Flared skirts look great at £30, as do pussy-bow blouses at £28. A long pleated burgundy skirt is competitive at £40, but a £276 sheepskin jacket is a tad high.