Online shopping

And now for something completely different



If 2009 was the year of the pop-up shop, then 2010 is set to be the year of the concept store. In the UK (OK, London), Dover Street Market and The Shop at Bluebird first set the tone, Liberty followed suit with its personal touches and now Anthropologie has raised the bar further. Couturelab, the online luxury portal recently opened its beautiful concept store on Davies Street, an outlet that is just as compelling as its online counterpart. Meanwhile, Darkroom (above) has just opened in Lambs Conduit Street selling under-the-radar fashion alongside interiors with in-store exhibitions a major focus.

Come January, Harvey Nichols London’s newly spruced-up fourth floor is set to be the next big buzz. It will have a concept store feel with a frequently evolving product mix including exclusive and limited edition collections, a Lanvin ‘supermarket of luxury’ curated by Alber himself and a buy-it-or-regret-it collection of vintage magazines (ooh), furniture (aah) and books (I’ll take ’em all).

The keyword for concept stores seems to be ‘edit’. It’s all about the precise mix of labels and the perfect ratio between new, vintage and limited edition. I think the other key point is to keep things changing constantly. Every time I visit a store I want to discover a surprise, something that wasn’t there before. It’s all part of the experience, otherwise why brave the crowds when I can shop online anytime and pretty much anywhere?
By the way, the concept store trend isn’t limited to London. There is a major luxury concept store arriving in Manchester in February 2010. Hervia, the company responsible for eight of Vivienne Westwood’s standalone stores is behind Hervia Bazaar, an impressive-sounding retail space and etail site. Designers slated for the store include Comme Des Garcons, Sibling, Zero+Maria Cornejo, Rick Owens and Gareth Pugh alongside lesser-known names such as shoesmiths Michael Lewis and Atlanta Weller.

Exciting, no? Watch this space for further updates…



If anything converts me to online shopping, this may be it



A few weeks ago I did some work with an online retailer. In the course of my work, the subject of online shopping came up and my colleague was aghast when I told her I don’t shop online. It’s true, I don’t. Apart from the odd book from Amazon – which by the time you’ve factored in delivery charges isn’t that much cheaper than the high street – I do all my shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores. I prefer the in-store experience and when it comes to clothes shopping I want to know I can return them with no hassle. It’s also why I feel happier buying from department stores rather than ‘no refunds’ boutiques. But news reaches me today of a new initiative from ASOS called ASOS Premier. For £24.95 a year you get free next day or ‘nominated day’ delivery and free returns which are collected from your house! Now, forgive me if this is common practice with online retailers but I’ve never heard of it and I think it’s bloody genius. I was so gobsmacked, I had to get someone to check that I’d read the blurb properly and got the right end of the stick. This is something that would seriously make me rethink my ‘no online shopping’ stance. It means you can order the item you want in a couple of different sizes, try them on at home playing dress-up with all your other things, then return the non-fitting item without hauling your ass down to the post office and paying for the privilege. Duh, they should have done this years ago!

At this week’s Fashion Summit, one of the main messages coming across was the importance of customer service. When business is tough, a good product, a good price and good customer service will see you through. If anyone knows how to succeed in online retail it’s ASOS and we all know that they are doing very well with product and price. It’s great to see customer service being addressed like this, let’s see if others follow suit.



Something super




Ah, how I love an entertaining retail concept! Supermarket Sarah is a clever and quirky idea from Sarah Bagner who has set up shop in her front room. She merchandises her finds against a wall in her flat and puts the result online so shoppers can click and buy. The shop is also open by appointment accompanied by tea and cake and a cosy chat. As an exclusive for London Fashion Week, she has enlisted the eye of Fred Butler to guest-curate. The shop goes live during LFW but you can have a preview here:

For more information on Supermarket Sarah, check out this interview on Amelia’s blog.