Browns to quit West End flagship, relocate to experiential Mayfair space
Browns (thankfully) doesn’t seem to have changed that much since Farfetch acquired it four years ago, but on Tuesday it announced a huge change on the horizon with news that it will relocate from its longtime flagship in South Molton Street, in London's West End, to a space just around the corner in Brook Street.
It won't happen until summer 2020, which also just happens to be the store's 50th anniversary, but it really is, as the company itself said “a momentous milestone for the heritage luxury retailer.”
The large-but-divided-up existing flagship has an intimate, almost-rabbit-warren-like feel and has defined browns for half a century, also being also a major factor in South Molton Street’s development as a high-end shopping destination.
But the company said that the new Mayfair flagship “will pave the way for exciting retail concepts where customer experience is paramount and technology and the power of personal service are at its heart.”
Holli Rogers, CEO of Browns and CFO (chief fashion officer) of Farfetch, said: “It really is telling that we found this incredible location to be our new home as we also look to celebrate our 50th anniversary. It was important that we stayed in the heart of Mayfair bringing our clients on this exciting journey, whilst honouring the path we’ve been on and looking to the future of Browns as a pioneer of luxury multi-brand retail with a technology viewpoint.”
Browns has seen the value of a different kind of space since it opened its Shoreditch Browns East branch in 2017 and it's undeniable that the West End flagship as it currently exists is limited as far as future experiential/technology-based development is concerned.
Susanne Tide-Frater, Chief Consultant of Augmented Retail at Farfetch, said: “The future of luxury retail is undoubtedly anchored in engaging and enabling technology, as much as it is in personable service delivered as a one-to-one experience by store assistants in an environment reflecting the brand at every touchpoint. The digital and technology expertise of Farfetch paired with the unique creative personality of Browns promises a firework of ideas and ever-changing connected experiences for the customer.”
It will be interesting to see how far parent company Farfetch takes its ‘store of the future’ concept within the new Browns. The e-tail giant unveiled a raft of future-focused tech ideas in a single location as part of a major project a couple of years ago and some of that will be brought to life in the new Browns, alongside more traditional luxe retail features.
DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY
Milan-based architecture and design studio, Dimorestudio, has been appointed to lead the design in Brook Street “to create an environment that retains the historical fabric whilst conveying the new vision for Browns.”
Built in 1720, the heritage site, located on the corner of Avery Row and Brook Street, has housed a number of big names over the years, including Colefax & Fowler. “Drawing on these historical aspects of the building and retaining some of the site’s original grandeur, some areas have been left completely untouched,” the company said.” The setting brings in minimal and sleek design against a backdrop of the past. Set over four floors, the space has been treated as a ‘maison’, utilising the central staircase and interconnected rooms to create rich and layered spaces lit with Dimorestudio-designed fixtures.”
Original floorboards are contrasted with monolithic modern structures, and “exquisite hand-painted wallpapers preserve the colour and pattern of the original site.” The company also said that a courtyard tucked away “will become a must-see spot in the heart of Mayfair.”
Much like Browns East, the Brook Street location has been tailored “to work within the neighbourhood it resides in, which is a characteristic of the Browns Nomad initiative.”
Included in the new location will be The Focus, named after the Browns Focus store, where Browns “activates [its] current obsessions, with a brand new look and feel with every new drop. Think exclusive capsule collections, collaborations and the newest, brightest talent being championed. The space will also act as a window to the flagship store.”
There will also be an Immersive Experience Room, which the retailer said will be “the ultimate in multi-sensory and experiential retail pop-up spaces.”
And crucial will be a dedicated ‘VIC’ (very important customer) space with the “VIC shopping experience of the future [covering] an entire floor that will house styling advice, wardrobing and a fashion concierge.” More and more luxury retailers are creating dedicated spaces for their highest-spending customers who might ring up tens of thousands of pounds in just one visit to the store.
And in line with more general retail trends, there will be a restaurant, described as “food for the soul and a place to meet."
The company said it will continue to offer its Browns edit, a regularly-rotating edit of “the best in luxury fashion,” spanning ready-to-wear, footwear, bags and fine jewellery with dedicated womenswear and menswear floors.
And a key technology introduction will be an ‘infinite shelf’ with its sales associates having access to the full product offering through in-store technologies and able to “pull from this infinite shelf in order to meet and exceed the needs of our customers.”
There will also be flexible fulfilment points and delivery options – a menu of delivery services “designed to ensure speed and ease of access to considered and confirmed purchases.” Much like its East London location, those who haven’t found what they’re looking for, can opt to have product transferred to the store within 60 minutes (stock dependent). London-based customers can opt for same-day delivery, while VIC clients can select from an additional menu of delivery services, including 90-minute delivery – all transported by eco-vehicles.
José Neves, Founder, Co-Chairman & CEO of Farfetch said of all this: “When we acquired Browns in 2015 I made a promise that we would take care of this iconic gem of our industry, and that we would continue to take a revolutionary approach to retail, both in-store and online. I couldn't be prouder of Holli, and the whole team who now lead Browns into its 50th anniversary year and the momentous occasion of moving into this new location on Brook Street.”
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