My first job in fashion retail was at eighteen, Russell & Bromley at the time I used my staff discount against each purchase and paycheque and at one point I went home with a fifty pound paycheque in what should have been an eight-hundred pound paycheque. Those were the days, when shops where simply as they were, full of merchandise and little atmosphere. You went in for clothes and came out with several bags full with little memory of the experience except a sales girl who asked the same question over and over again; do you need any help? You went in for something and you came out with what you needed or you kept shopping until you found what you were looking for. Back then retail was relatively uncomplicated, the landscape was basic and flat, clothes, shoes, handbags etc. you get what you get. Today however the retail landscape has changed and evolved. It is no longer about selling merchandise, it is about selling a lifestyle, it is welcoming and invites you to stay longer. You walk into a shop and it feels like you are walking into someone’s home. It is more personal and intimate. The space is set up in a way to let the shopper imagine a particular life they could be living.
There is a narrative in the physical space, it tells a story and is of a particular aesthetic that seeks to encompass your life so you live hoping to emulate that. You don’t just get clothes and shoes, you have supplies, utensils, crockery, all carefully curated to a particular lifestyle that invites you to indulge and imagine the possibilities of your life styled in this way. I’ll admit to not shopping much in store, thanks to the likes of Asos and Zara and Amazon making buying and returning way too easy to be bothered to go in-store. However I have taken to making it an intentional move to leave my desk in the middle of the day and go out for some fresh air simply because sitting at one’s desk for eight hours is not healthy. I found myself in one of such store one afternoon last week; Anthropologie, a store I wouldn’t necessarily go into because the price point is a little out of my comfort zone, except its in the sales. Its almost like a department store in a smaller square footage.
It is carefully designed to encompass a particular lifestyle, it is rustic and charming like a mediterranean villa, with bare walls but colourful pieces, cupboard with clothes, a coffee grinder with beans, kitchen cupboard with plates, a tree plate, shelves of acoutrement… it is endearing simply being in the space, it made a marked change from being in stores like topshop and H&M that still operate that old school basic retail look and feel. Across the board retail has upped its ante, bigger stores have other services involved in them like a concept department store; be it beauty, eateries, art, books, there is something for everyone is really the rule of thumb nowadays and it is no thanks or big thanks to the rise of e-commerce and the comfort of arm chair or bedroom shopping. How long will this last? Who knows but for now they are catering to a more grown up, more seasoned shopper and she is taking notice.