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Shopwatch: New Look

Fast-fashion retailer New Look is upping its game.

Featuring neutral decor throughout with statement neon lighting, its new store concept at Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush draws shoppers in with a double-height entrance putting its two floors on show.

Intended to help it better compete with rivals River Island and Topshop, the large window displays also raise awareness of its menswear collection. The left window, previously equally split between men’s and women’s garments, is now solely devoted to men’s. The right showcases the womenswear offering, along with a large video screen showing New
Look models relaxing with friends and eating watermelons in the sun. This is complemented by lifestyle photography throughout, helping create a strong brand feel.

By comparison, River Island’s shop just around the corner is also a study in neutrals and neon lights, with windows equally split between menswear on the left and womenswear on the right; and both floors of the shop are visible from the open entrance. New Look says the similarities between the designs are not deliberate, noting it is Westfield policy that stores are as open as possible at the front, and adds that neon is a key summer trend for all high street fashion retailers.

Just through the doors, the front of the 19,000 sq ft store is divided into four seasonal trends: tropical beach, neon bloom, tribal brights - the store’s most popular to date in terms of sales - and neon tribal. Subtle changes in the lighting, wallpaper and colour of the fixtures - for example, from textured wallpaper to exposed painted brick - guide customers through to the formal dress section at the back, where high-gloss panels create a boutique feel.

Product is as densely merchandised as you would expect, but does not feel cluttered thanks to the versatility of the shopfit, which comprises easily moveable shelves and display units so fixtures, fittings and rails can be quickly relocated.

A ‘backstage theme’ runs throughout, with stage lighting above the trends section and some products sitting on flight cases - the black and chrome boxes traditionally used for transporting electronic equipment. The theme continues in the lower-floor fitting rooms, where dressing room stars adorn each door. Tucked around the corner alongside the changing rooms in an interesting use of an awkward space is the make-up bar, which can be used for special store events as well as daily by customers.

The designers have tried to create a fun atmosphere throughout, with messages written on the shop floor mirrors, including ‘I’ve got too many clothes - said no girl ever.’ Smaller video screens inside reflect the larger one in the window, and on either side of the lower floor, areas showcase what is on offer upstairs. To the left is a preview of New Look’s Label Lounge, which mixes own brand with boutique labels such as Tokyo Doll, Misumi and Blue Vanilla. On the right a selection of items from the menswear collection signpost interested parties in the right direction. The menswear section sits at the top of the escalator, flanked by the 915 teen range and the shoes and accessories lounge. Here in the men’s department the mannequins stand on school gym equipment and the entire aesthetic is more typically masculine, featuring chains, exposed brick, metal and wood.

A renewed emphasis on menswear is part of a push to improve sales of the category, which currently accounts for 5.3%of total sales in this store. Plans are also afoot to launch standalone menswear stores at an undisclosed future date.

However, although the men’s section is clearly marked and has three dedicated fitting rooms, it still feels like an add-on to the womenswear offering. And will men really walk into New Look to shop for clothes?

The young fashion chain has unveiled a fresh store concept at Westfield London, which embraces in-store technology and makes more effort to push its menswear offer.

“Half of male shoppers don’t know New Look does menswear; they tend to shop in couples,” says senior design manager Michelle Hardy. She adds the larger menswear window has, however, already led to a massive uplift in men coming into the store to shop.

The 915 range - from £3.99 for a purse to £26.99 for a leather-look biker jacket - includes a selfie sofa, where younger shoppers can take photos of themselves with novelty masks. Signs on the wall encourage customers to engage with the retailer on Twitter and Facebook. iPads hung in place of mannequins’ heads show looped films of customers smiling into the camera.

Hardy says this has proved popular. New Look hopes to link the screens to the selfie sofa in the future and extend the idea to other stores.

Also upstairs is a lingerie department and the plus-size Inspire range, priced from £3.49 for a strappy vest to £59.99 for an embellished maxi dress. There is also a click-and-collect area.

Much of the clothing was handpicked to highlight the full breadth of the extensive range. This, combined with the refit, has made the shop feel like a higher-quality offering on par with River Island, Topshop and others without changing price points. The womenswear collection ranges from 99p for Kirby grips to £120 for a black leather waterfall jacket. In menswear, prices start at £5.99 for a beanie hat and go up to £54.99 for a tailored tuxedo jacket.

New Look is rolling the concept out to its Brighton store in August and plans to extend it to another eight - including Westfield Stratford, Southampton, Cardiff and Newcastle - by the end of this year.

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