JD Sports wants to shake up high street menswear with its Open concept. We visited the first store to gauge its prospects.
Open, the new menswear concept from JD Sports Fashion, launched on August 23 at Stevenage’s Westgate Shopping Centre.
Spanning 2,000 sq ft, the first store is part of a soft launch in which larger branches of up to 3,000 sq ft will also be opened.
“We’re trying different locations to see how customers react to the brand. The reactions this weekend from customers were really positive,” says Open managing director Stephen Galea, formerly of men’s young fashion chain Blue Inc.
“There is definitely an opportunity in the UK menswear market. A lot of menswear businesses have gone to the wayside and nothing has really replaced them. When can you remember a UK own-brand menswear chain launching in recent times? Normally, menswear retailers are in addition to an existing womenswear business, and can feel like a bit of an add-on. So we felt there was a certain amount of choice lacking on the high street.”
Galea says the Open proposition is based around on-trend quality product at an affordable price, achieved through “long-standing” relationships with suppliers. Prices range from about £5 for basic T-shirts to £80 for a parka. Customers will find affordable pieces within the range including a twill bomber jacket for £30, jeans from £20 for core styles, rising to £25 for selvedge pieces, and knitwear from £18 to £25.
With about 380 SKUs Galea says product will be refreshed with new drops each week to appeal to its core customer aged 20 to 30. In terms of positioning, it will sit alongside brand such as Jack & Jones and Pull & Bear, “with elements of River Island”.
Flanked by womenswear chain Bank to the left, River Island to the right and with Arcadia-owned Burton nearby, the store has an open layout with movable fixtures and an industrial feel with some garments displayed in hanging metal frames. Product is clearly zoned, starting with T-shirts and hoodies at the front of the store, with a chinos and jeans area in the centre displaying the items hanging or folded on tables, leading to outerwear, knitwear, accessories and footwear to the back of the store.
“From my experience, having worked for menswear businesses across the high street such as Blue Inc and Arcadia, men like stores that are easy to navigate with product in clearly defined areas. That is what we have tried to do here,” Galea explains.
He says footwear will be an important part of the business, with 48 styles at launch.
‘When can you remember a UK own-brand menswear chain launching in recent times?’
Stephen Galea, managing director, Open
More stores are following in Leeds, Bury and Northampton in early September, Glasgow and Leicester in mid-September, and Manchester Arndale at the end of the month.
A transactional website will be launched later this month, and click-and-collect will be rolled out across the entire JD Sports Fashion portfolio, meaning Open’s online customers will be able to pick up their orders in JD or Bank stores.
Based in Barking, Essex, the Open management team includes commercial director Stephen Price, head of buying Stewart Messer, head ofmerchandising Oliver Woodhouse, head of design Rachael Stocks Thomas and retail controller Rob Davies.
On the day of the Open launch, JD reopened its Regent Crescent store at Manchester Trafford Centre. The 9,000 sq ft two-floor concept store has a digital focus, with kiosks where shoppers can browse the entire range, iPad-enabled sales assistants, and iBeacon technology that offers exclusive content to shoppers that have downloaded the JD app.