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Scotch & Soda, Carnaby Street

The Dutch young fashion brand has made a foray into central London with its latest store, but does it manage to differentiate itself from the competition?


Address 13 Carnaby Street, London W1F
Size 590 sq ft
Number of floors Two
Opened August 2013
Shopfitting W40 Interiors, Wiesbaden, Germany

Dutch young fashion brand Scotch & Soda has been around in its current form since its 2002 relaunch, although it was founded in the 1980s. It is stocked by retailers across the world and there are 90 standalone Scotch & Soda stores, mostly in the Netherlands and Germany.

Until now, the UK has lacked any substantial Scotch & Soda retail presence, with just one store in London’s Westbourne Grove and a Maison Scotch, for women, in the same area. Now things have changed, with the new two-floor Carnaby Street flagship showing off the brand to advantage in a high-profile location. Open for just over a month, the store is highly visible in a street where eye-catching is the order of the day.

Concept and visual merchandising: 8/10

Scotch & Soda was originally a menswear brand and prominence is therefore always afforded to the male collections.

For this reason, and in a reversal of the normal order of things, the men’s offer is on the ground floor while womenswear is in the basement.

Both floors have a broadly similar ambience, consisting of museum-like mid-shop displays which combine dark wood and glass to create the sort of displays that probably wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Victorian museum
of curiosities.

And as in museums of old, the lighting focus is on specific merchandise areas, creating large pools of dark, as well as brighter areas.

Black-framed monochrome fashion shots, on both floors and on the wall facing the stairwell, manage to create a sense of the contemporary in an almost traditional setting. Rugs, scattered around both floors, contrast with the dark wood flooring.

In spite of the relatively high cost of operating a store in this neck of the woods, product density has been kept on the low side, with the perimeter being a mix of side- and front-hanging garments, as well as shelving for laid presentation.

It is the use of props that really marks out this interior however, as well as providing something eye-catching for the passing shopper. The window features a vintage-look electric motorcycle above which hangs a leather biker jacket. It also provides some interest for those looking in, with the first of several displays featuring small scent bottles suspended on long pieces of string.

The shopfront is actually quite low key, but it is hard not to steal a glance if you are passing.

Service: 7/10

On the day of visiting there was a friendly welcome on walking into the shop and all of the staff on duty were approachable and wanted to help.

They were also ready with information about both stock and brand - all delivered in soft Dutch accents. Scotch & Soda has obviously imported its staff from the home country, for the opening at least. The emphasis was on the soft sell - attentive without being pushy.

Product: 7/10

Dutch fashion brands tend towards the highly casual end of the spectrum and Scotch & Soda is no exception to this generalisation, with just a few pieces of tailoring being part of the mix for both genders.

Prices for Scotch & Soda’s ‘Amsterdam Couture’ are in line with what you’d expect for casualwear on Carnaby Street, with outerwear on offer from around £200. In the store, pride of place in the Maison Scotch womenswear offer was given to a fake fur sleeveless coat at a shade more than £200.

For men, prices head to above the £500 mark for a leather jacket and a pair of jeans ranges from £100 to more than £200 for a pair of selvedge denim. This is the better end of casual and the pricing reflects this.

Does it work? 7/10

This may work, but it does look expensive and there is a lot of competition, even in the chichi surroundings of Carnaby Street.

There is little sense of compromise about the prices that are being asked and the intention, presumably, is to position the brand as a premium young fashion player.

This is fine, but this is a price-sensitive part of the market and there are few guarantees that UK shoppers will be prepared to pay this kind of money en masse.

That said, Carnaby Street is a sufficiently international thoroughfare that this may not actually matter and the store will prove a magnet in its own right. It has great appeal in terms of both visual merchandising and product mix.

  • Total: 29/40


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