Warehouse chief executive Liz Evans is setting out the womenswear chain’s stall with its first-ever London flagship on Oxford Street.
The Friday afternoon buzz on Oxford Street was intensified last week as shoppers crammed into Warehouse’s £1m flagship store on its opening day.
Situated at 264 Oxford Street near and flanked by branches of Carphone Warehouse and Italian footwear retailer Geox, Warehouse has taken over the former Monsoon unit close to Oxford Circus and created an inviting loft-style store with 2,500 sq ft of selling space.
Speaking to Drapers at the opening, Warehouse and Oasis chief executive Liz Evans said it was time the retailer - which opened its first store in London in 1976 - had a store like this: “We haven’t had a London flagship or a store on Oxford Street, so this is a real opportunity to open Warehouse up to a whole new pool of consumers.”
Created in collaboration with retail design firm Brown Studio, the storefit is inspired by the converted warehouses seen in New York’s Meatpacking District and SoHo. This concept is evident in the shop front, which has a lowered girder-style design, and inside, where a double-height atrium provides an exhibition space, while illuminated faux-skylights accentuate the bright, spacious atmosphere. Exposed brick walls and concrete flooring towards the entrance - and distressed wooden flooring further in on the ground level - create an industrial feel, while slimmed-down clothing racks add a more refined touch.
Warehouse’s mainline, which retails from £20 for a tropical fluoro-print cami to £165 for leather biker jackets, is on the ground floor and product is merchandised as total looks and displayed on racks or atop illuminated tables. There is a denim area too and the store will also stock exclusive pieces - identified by their swing-tags - with examples including a pair of textured, croc-effect, tailored white trousers and jacket, which retail at £50 and £45 respectively, and a printed silk explosion-print dress for £90.
A large, frosted glass-panelled dividing wall provides the backdrop to the till area at the rear of the ground floor, where Warehouse has also saved space by removing a stockholding area and transferring it to the basement level. Customers can browse the retailer’s website via iPads set into the counter. A VIP area is tucked away behind the till, where customers can book - or just turn up for - one-on-one sales appointments, and which has a neon sign reading ‘Forget the rules. If you like it, wear it’.
A bespoke illuminated staircase leads up to the mezzanine level, which Warehouse has extended by five feet to gain extra selling space. Here customers will find the more premium collection, Spotlight, which retails from £60 for a black maxi dress to £120 for an embellished maxi.
To the rear of the mezzanine is a large fitting and lounge room which acts as a central feature, with scented candles and comfortable seating creating a relaxed space. There are 10 changing rooms, each containing its own neon-lit message such as ‘Alive’ or ‘Create’, and customers don’t need to leave the fitting area to pay, as staff are armed with transactional iPads and there is a till point to the rear.
Hidden there is also a small stockroom for high-volume product, while an external staff staircase at the rear of the building gives access to the ground floor and also the larger stockroom in the basement.
This is now the fourth Warehouse store to receive its new concept, after Trinity Leeds, Bristol and Belfast in 2013. Evans says the case for this investment was clear: apart from needing a London flagship, Belfast recorded an 80% surge in sales in its relocated store, while the Bristol store, in the Cribbs Causeway shopping centre, saw a 25% sales rise after its refit.
Evans adds that as an international retailer - Warehouse trades from 420 stores in 30 countries, with a further 20 international stores planned this year - the London flagship will act as an invaluable shop window to visitors from overseas.
While it may not be the largest store on Oxford Street, what is clear is that Evans and her team have cleverly maximised the space to create a compelling shopping experience.