Change is at the heart of high streets that work and the carefully sculpted Marylebone High Street is among the best at embracing it.
Wander down Marylebone High Street, one of London’s better-end shopping thoroughfares, and it looks as if it’s always been the way it is. This is where there are a lot of French luxury brands and retailers, a Waitrose, of course, and at its north end there is a branch of The Conran Shop, which sits next to a posh Conran eaterie.
If you’ve got money to spare, like French brands and a beautiful bookshop, among other things, then this street is a place worth visiting. If you haven’t and you don’t, then there are probably enough cafés and suchlike to make the trip worthwhile nonetheless.
This is, in short, a very nice place that will reward the ambling shopper with time to fritter and a mentality that appreciates a leisurely browse. And yet it is changing.
Tucked among the rash of retailers whose origins lie just across the Channel, there is a significant newcomer: Anthropologie. This is actually quite a big two-floor store and it’s been open since the beginning of December.
It’s always hard to pin down what you might walk in to an Anthropologie store to buy – it has to be the ultimate browsing emporium, but its appeal generally lies in its visual merchandising, which is among the best on any high street.
And just along the street from this, the hoardings are up and J Crew is busy creating another London store where lovers of upscale cashmere and other luxury fabrics can indulge themselves.
The point is that while Marylebone High Street is a long-established destination in the Capital’s retail landscape, it is changing and the shift appears to be towards US as well as French retailers.
In spite of this street having been occasionally characterised as a “sculpted” high street, which contains everything that the ideal high street should have, albeit at a price, the notion of what this actually means changes and needs to change.
Just like anywhere else, there are winners and losers and shopper preference means that when all might seem well, the arrival of a newcomer can completely alter the balance of what’s on offer in an area. The Howard de Walden estate, the body that owns and is responsible for the retail mix that makes this street what it is, demonstrates a keen awareness of the fact that the sector is posited on continual change.
Other landlords and retailers should visit and learn from one of the best.