Fenwick of Bond Street’s £1m Shoe Corner is the initial step in its ground floor revamp.
Fenwick of Bond Street’s new footwear department has cost the business £1m to produce - the store’s single largest investment - but this is just the start of managing director David Walker-Smith’s transformation of the ground floor.
The newly named Shoe Corner has doubled Fenwick’s footwear selling space to 4,143 sq ft, relocated to the ground floor and been given a fresh look that nods elegantly to its late 19th-century origins while keeping one eye on the demands of the modern customer. Nine brands have been added - Valentino, Nicholas Kirkwood, Jil Sander, Giuseppe Zanotti, Bottega Veneta, Proenza Schouler, Lanvin and Alexander Wang, joining existing names ranging from Miss KG to Charlotte Olympia - taking the total to 30. No brands have been dropped.
“I negotiated a lot of the brands into Fenwick [alongside concession operator Kurt Geiger],” says Walker-Smith. “I set the bar quite high for designer brands but we got all the ones we wanted - nobody said no. I was super excited.”
The space comprises three rooms - a designer room with what Walker-Smith characterises as the high-end ‘wow’ brands such as Bottega Veneta and Lanvin; a contemporary premium room with the likes of Aerin by Aerin Lauder, See by Chloé and Acne, and a third room with entry ranges such as Kurt Geiger and Miss KG.
“When you have less than 5,000 sq ft you have to use every inch of space to drive sales, so this has been a very careful edit,” says Walker-Smith. The brand list will be refreshed every season, but he says it’s too early to draw up the next wish list.
Shayne Brady, founder of interior architecture studio BradyWilliams, has designed a space that harkens back to fin-de-siècle tastes with marble floors, flourishes including a brass shoe tree featuring 28 pairs of shoes, and mirrored pillars that also display product.
Walker-Smith brought Brady, who has designed restaurant interiors for Wolseley Group’s The Counter at The Delaunay and Fischer’s on Marylebone High Street, into the store back in October. This is the first time Brady has worked in a retail environment, so he brings new ideas - the shoe cloud and pillars among them. However, Walker-Smith says there are parallels between the experience of a restaurant and a footwear department: “The service comes to you, and that is what I wanted to express in the Shoe Corner”.
Lingerie has been moved up a floor into the former footwear area, which he believes gives shoppers more privacy - a need identified from customer feedback. “It’s a confident customer who would buy lingerie on the ground floor, right by the door,” he says. While lingerie sales have remained level during the first weeks of trading since the move, footwear sales have tripled.
Marketing around the launch was mostly carried out through blogger networks. Walker-Smith enlisted the help of the Daily Telegraph fashion director Hilary Alexander and Red Carpet Fashion Awards blogger Catherine Kallon to promote the opening via social media, with Alexander kicking off her Instagram feed posting about the launch.
Having opened on July 11, the changes are already having an impact, attracting a younger customer than Fenwick’s usual demographic. “For the first time ever I can see different carrier bags that have probably never been here before - Victoria’s Secret for example. They are coming in and reacting so well with what we have done.”
This is the first of several changes that Walker-Smith hopes will transform the store over the coming months. Now he has finished with the Shoe Corner he is turning his attention to the hosiery department and then handbags. Ultimately the entire floor will be redeveloped.
“At £1m this is the biggest investment Fenwick has made in a single department in Bond Street.
I think the Shoe Corner will be indicative of the rest of the ground floor in terms of quality, feel and elegance,” says Walker-Smith, though he declines to reveal what the total spend could be.
“I’m not prepared to say what that will be yet, but it will be a substantial investment as we reconnect to our surroundings. We are on Bond Street, the most famous street in the world, so we have to be timeless, streamlined, but with surprising elements.”
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