Saturday, 24 October 2009

Anthropologie is retail magic

At last! Anthropologie has finally opened on London's Regent Street. As a seasoned US Anthro customer I was beyond excited at the prospect having a good look around at the press preview on Wednesday - and they added a sumptuous tea party spread to boot!

So the real secret of Anthropologie's success Stateside is the clever VM and eclectic product display that mixes fashion, homewares and lifestyle with a certain je ne sais quoi that sews it all together. It's retail magic that makes you want to buy everything! Each store has two dedicated VM experts that change around new product all the time and are responsible for the story telling aesthetic Anthropologie is known for. From wardrobe to bedroom to kitchen table to pantry and even to garden (with sister retail brand Terrain) it's all there to be discovered.

When I asked visual manager Camdon Richardson what was his secret he told me the devil is in the detail: "It's all down to the little touches I put in the nooks and crannies to catch people's attention. Some of our shoppers are used to Anthropologie displays (and love us for it) but others are captivated when we add the little related product ideas and special props we find from our travels around the world. It's about inspiring people to follow our style in their home so I like to show them how to do it for themselves." He added that the London store has been his favourite so far because the UK - and Europe provides such a rich cultural melting pot of ideas. "It's a huge first step for us here in Europe."

James Bidwell is MD of the Urban Outfitters owned new Anthro UK. He told me: "We're all about experience and we exist to provide our customers with a journey of discovery in-store. The secret of the store is the merchandising. Average dwell time per customer is an hour and a half and it's because there's so much to discover. It's like layering different product stories for the customer." He added that the creative visual team take a completely different approach to each store - they're based in each one and take inspiration locally. So London means Union Jack wall hangings, quilts and throws - with one even styled on a mannequin as a skirt to throw the different departments together.

Other quirky highlights in-store include the giant lifesize Narwhal hanging above the laden tabletop display (made from all the plastic packaging from the products shipped in for opening, and covered in paper mache), the Magpie chandeliers made by South African artist communities, the Christmas room complete with snowy clouds (check out Anthro's wonderful ornaments selection) and last but certainly not least is the 2000 sq ft growing plant wall complete with over 80,000 plants, created by UK based company Biotech. "It's like a green oasis on Regent Street". If you look closely the plants are arranged in a plaid check formation and are supported by their very own sustainable irrigation system from the roof. The wall together with the three storey staircase (made from reclaimed wooden frames), stitches the building together. Oh and I nearly forgot the stunning circular hanging window display made from hundreds of dip-dyed used tea-bags. Very British!

I also had a quick chat with head of buying Olivia Richardson who said she wanted to bring over what was relevant from the US and translate it for the UK market. "We had our London customer firmly in mind and wanted to source the local market to make the Anthropologie offer right for Europe. So we're doing a number of collaborations with both the interiors and fashion offers including a capsule range with Eley Kishimoto and several items from the boutique Beyond the Valley. We have also worked with French artist Nathalie Lete to create some one off home pieces and British interior designer duo Clarke and Reilly have created a line of hand crafted furniture exclusively for us."

She added: "Our customer encounters everything from textiles to home accessories, as well as decorative antiques and vintage objects that are literally found by our buyers who travel the world in search of originality that's right for Anthropologie."

Wow 'buyer at large' sounds like my dream job!

As usual I didn't hold back snapping away inside, here's my selection of pics for your visual delight!
Anthropologie Regent Street