N Brown has brought its Simply Be and Jacamo dual fascia to Oxford Street. How does it shape up against the West End heavyweights?
With double-height glass windows dedicated to its collections fronted by former England cricketer Freddie Flintoff and model Kelly Brook, the imposing dual-fascia Simply Be and Jacamo flagship store on the rapidly developing east side of Oxford Street signals owner N Brown Group’s desire to increase brand awareness and market share.
Flanked by American Apparel to the left and Moss Bros to the right, the three-level 6,500 sq ft store opened on September 17 at 138-140 Oxford Street, formerly occupied by Esprit. Just inside, a mezzanine and a staircase that leads up to menswear on the first floor create an atrium-like entrance where a video wall - or ‘jukebox’ wall, as the company calls it - showcases a rotating display of images from the men’s and women’s collections and campaigns to catch the attention of passers-by.
When Drapers ascends the stairs to menswear on the first floor, Jacamo brand ambassador Flintoff is busy talking with N Brown chief executive Angela Spindler, ahead of the store’s opening and a busy day of press. Mannequins showcase Jacamo’s latest looks as you enter, set against a screen built into the wall, again used to showcase the collection.
Own brands include trend-led Label J, priced from £18 for a basic T-shirt to £45 for a Nordic coat; the dressier Black Label by Jacamo, from £25 for a party shirt to £90 for a velvet blazer; and Flintoff by Jacamo, at £25 for a polo shirt to £150 for a leather jacket. Meanwhile, third-party labels include Original Penguin, Joe Browns and Lambretta, and brands such as Nike in footwear, to appeal to men’s branded tastes.
The shopfit has an industrial feel, with brick motif walls and blue tones used throughout. Casualwear is situated towards the front of the men’s floor, with denim in the centre and footwear and formalwear towards the back, where customers will find four changing rooms. In-store technology comes in the form of transactional kiosks to order for home delivery or click-and-collect.
Downstairs, the ground floor is given over to the plus-size Simply Be fascia, which caters for women in sizes 10 to 32. Here customers are greeted with the new 14-piece Kelly Brook autumn 14 collection, which launched on September 10 but has already become one of Simply Be’s best-selling ranges. Prices start at £35 for a cropped fluffy jersey top, rising to £95 for a lace jumpsuit. This is swiftly followed by the second-season range created by Look magazine, from £21.50 for a geo-check print top to £75 for a grid-design check coat. Further in, longer-standing collections include the more evening-inspired own label Lovedrobe, ranging from £21 for a lace-print blouse to £65 for a stud-trim printed maxi dress; own label Grazia, at £18 for a PU-trim peplum top to £70 for a PU biker jacket; and third-party label AX Paris Curve, at £24.50 for a gypsy swing-tunic top to £50 for a chiffon maxi dress. Accents of pink add a feminine feel to the shopfit. Technology is incorporated throughout, with transactional kiosks to order from the website and a video screen located behind the main till point.
In the basement can be found the Simply Yours lingerie range, from £10 for mesh panel knickers to £32 for a pack of two multiway lace bras, nightwear starting at £15.50 for a soft jersey pyjama set to £26 for a classic button-down floral pyjama set, and shapewear brand Magisculpt, ranging from £18 for a control vest top to £39 for a control body shaper. A large section is also given over to the women’s footwear offer, priced from £25 for a pair of pointed-toe black pumps to £95 for leather brogue-detail knee-high boots.
With N Brown’s catalogue and online shopping heritage - it was a pure-play until 2011, when it opened the first Simply Be and Jacamo store - there is a big focus on technology on the basement floor. Weary husbands can make use of a seated ‘stay and play’ area where cream couches are surrounded by transactional iPads to browse and order from the website. Meanwhile, in the adjacent changing rooms, there is a touchscreen ‘Magic Mirror’ in the communal area, which customers can use to take photos of themselves to upload directly onto social media sites. And the tech investment doesn’t stop there. There is also a private by-appointment personal shopping room complete with catering area and a Bodymetric scanner, which scans a customer’s body 360 degrees to suggest garments that would be the right fit - ideal for Simply Be, which is all about fitting for different body types.
‘Technology is incorporated throughout, with transactional kiosks to order from online and a video screen behind the till’
Spindler told Drapers she expects Simply Be and Jacamo’s ‘inclusive’ sizing, which ranges from size 10 to 32 in women’s and small to 5XL in men’s, to be a hit with West End shoppers. She added: “This store opening is a really important step for us to showcase Simply Be and Jacamo, and with the Crossrail development in the works, I think it’s ideally located.”
Manchester-based N Brown operates 10 Simply Be stores, nine of which are dual fascia with Jacamo. Further openings are planned in Norwich, Edinburgh and Merry Hill in Dudley before Christmas.