As statements of intent go, this one was pretty definitive.
Reserved arrived to much fanfare on Oxford Street yesterday, complete with crowds craning to get a glimpse of Moss, an army of security guards and a DJ blasting out tunes from around 9am.
Reserved’s Polish parent LPP signed the lease on its first UK store before BHS collapsed, at a time when the ailing department store chain’s owners, Retail Acquisitions, were still trying to free up funds.
The fascia of LPP’s flagship brand has been concealed behind hoardings for so long since then, that they have attracted graffiti. But now they are down, the shutters are up and the doors are finally open.
“It looked like a building site for so long,” laughs UK retail operations manager Corinne Facey. “It looked like the set of a Guy Ritchie movie, just before they kill someone off.”
Now, catwalk style lights cover the ceiling, while tightly-edited trend collections are presented around a wide central gangway.
While it is clearly trend-led and fashion conscious, the product is intended to be worn by a wider age range than the clothes sold by the likes of its online rivals Asos or Missguided.
As such, it’s entering arguably the most competitive part of a crowded market. The struggles of close competitor New Look provide stark warning of how hard bricks-and-mortar fast fashion can be in the UK.
But Facey seems unfazed by the competition, pointing to LPP’s background as proof that it knows exactly what it’s doing.
“We [LPP] have been established for over 25 years,” she says. “We are not new to the market, we are not new to fashion, we’ve been around for some time, we’re very aware of how the industry change and we’re very reactive to that.
“We are not new kids on the block. We feel quite confident with the location we’ve got, the product that we’ve got.”
There’s no denying the credentials Facey alludes to.
While the Polish company, founded in 1991 by Jerzy Lubianiec and Marek Piechocki, is hardly a household name in the UK, it has racked up around 1,710 stores across 19 countries since its launch.
In 2001, it listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange and the last few years have seen it expand outside its Eastern European heartland, adding stores in Germany in 2014 and Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 2015.
Much like its fashion rivals H&M and Inditex, LPP also boasts a host of other brands under its banner, including Cropp Town, House, Mohito and Sinsay.
But despite launching Reserved on these shores, there are no plans to bring those fasciae to the UK imminently, Facey insists.
“Right now, our main focus is just for Reserved,” she asserts. ”Oxford Street is our number one priority right now, along with the online store, so there are no plans just of yet to for the other LPP brands to be spread out just yet.”
You sense such a move could be just a matter of time, however.
Reserved is LPP’s most mainstream fascia and is surely the ideal test brand for the company.
If it does take off, LPP would be foolhardy not to explore the possibility of bringing the other brands to the UK.
According to Piechocki, this London flagship will act as a beacon, reflecting his self-stated ambition to “grow brand recognition and establish ourselves across Western Europe and beyond”.
Ambitions aside, LPP has chosen a tough time to come to the UK.
The notoriously difficult market has only been made harder by Brexit-related consumer confidence wobbles and additional sourcing costs, while new entrants such as H&M’s Weekday and Arket continue to pile in.
Facey stresses that Reserved is coming into that landscape with eyes wide open, taking things slowly and using the Oxford Street store as a test to better understand what the UK market wants.
“We want to do it correctly and that’s why there are no plans to expand too fast,” she says. “We really want to dive into the London customer and tackle the British market from there.
“We are not rushing anything, it is about understanding the consumer and the launch and responding. We are a fast-paced retailer and are used to reacting quickly.”
LPP’s past record would have a betting man backing it. But at nearby Oxford Circus tube station, Reserved adverts vie for attention with others from Quiz, Boohoo and Asos.
Looking at them, it’s easy to conclude that the crowded market is finally becoming overcrowded. LPP will need to do its utmost to muscle in.