There are a number of retail brands that might reasonably be accused of Disneyfication and among them, lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret would probably be able to stand proud.
Address Ground floor, Westfield Stratford City
Total UK stores One (Bond St flagship imminent)
Ambience Disney for the bedroom
Size 12,368 sq ft
In essence, this US-based operation takes sexuality and seeks to make it warm and cuddly instead of… Now visit the retailer’s first European store in Westfield Stratford City and the Disney theme is immediately apparent, with greeters whose enthusiasm might cause even Mickey to look to his laurels – nice if you like that sort of thing. And there are plenty who do. During the Olympics, it was one of the busiest stores in the mall.
This is a large space by the standards of the majority of fashion retailers in Westfield, but the three-floor flagship due to open on Bond Street “before the end of this month” will dwarf what shoppers are currently encountering.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
The first thing that will stop almost every Westfield visitor in their tracks is the window display Victoria’s Secret installed to mark its opening last month. Two displays, either side of the open-fronted entrance, show winged torsos sporting bustiers, knickers and suchlike. The theme, self-evidently, is angels and this is picked up in-store as part of the retailer’s ‘designer’ offer. Since opening, the displays have proved strong enough to compel shoppers to deploy the camera setting on their phones. Inside, the store is organised by, ahem, wearing occasion, with upfront and sexy at the front of the shop, romantic in the middle and the Bra Salon to the rear, for everyday support, apparently. All with lighting to match.
02 - CONCEPT
‘Making you feel safe about skimpies’ might be the strapline for this store. There are certainly hints of the boudoir within the darker reaches of the Panty Boutique, but there is nothing likely to offend. The various rooms all have their own character – whether it’s the near-nude monochrome shots that adorn the front walls, or the striped niches and backlit wall panels that are used in the Bra Salon, there’s something for all tastes. Overall, it has considerable appeal.
03 - SERVICE
As might be expected, service is very American. Whether it’s the greeters at the front door or the way in which you are asked if you need help at almost every turn, this is the kind of in-your-face, not-so-soft sell that will pass unnoticed if you need help, but could be annoying if you don’t. All was scrupulously tidy, which does speak of high staffing levels, and product knowledge was also good. There is clearly some kind of Victoria’s Secret university for staff and most appeared to have graduated with an upper second at worst.
04 - PRODUCT
For the majority passing through the store, ‘intimates’ (aka bras and panties) will be top of the shopping list. And with bras starting at about £20 and rising to more than £50 for the Angels range, the price architecture has been organised to suit a range of budgets. There are relatively few shapes, but a multitude of colours and prints, so if you like the Victoria’s Secret shape, then there will be a lot to choose from. There is, of course, a lot more to the range, with nightwear, leggings and T-shirt tops also available.
05 - COMPETITION
During the Olympic fortnight, the store was mobbed, in spite of there being a number of lingerie stores in the centre. Among others, La Senza, Ann Summers and, of course, Marks & Spencer, all have substantial ranges. That said, this is one of the centre’s biggest offers and, as a newcomer to this country, it is bound to see off many of its competitors by dint of curiosity alone.
It may even result in incremental sales for the category across the mall. When the Bond Street store opens, this one may suffer mild sales cannibalisation, but it will still be a Westfield Stratford City lingerie queen.
06 - VERDICT - Will do well
The arrival of Victoria’s Secret to the UK has been anticipated for years with many false starts. Now it’s here and the shopper reaction so far looks as though there’s real demand. This is, however, as much an exercise in brand marketing as it is in satiating a demand for a new bra. From the window showing a woman called Doutzen appearing as a Victoria’s Secret angel in New York, to the in-store posters of a blonde wearing the product accompanied by the legend ‘very sexy’, the store is about mood creation, and I must say it does it well.