That seems to be the latest message, as evinced by outfits such as American Apparel or maybe Divided, the new format from H&M that opened in edgy Camden (just along the road from this office, naturally) last week.
A lot of retailers spend a lot of time creating show-stopping interiors complete with carefully controlled environments, digital signage and layouts intended to ease the shopping journey. The quickest of whizzes around Divided, however, will suffice to prove that it needn’t be this way.
This is a self-consciously stripped-down interior where fixtures have been replaced by scaffolding that has been sprayed white and, in place of elaborate lighting rigs, there are simple fluorescent tubes. For anyone not knowing any better, you might be inclined to say that the market traders just around the corner from the shop had been tasked with creating a new store.
Which is very probably what H&M wants its shoppers to think. The characters H&M may form part of the fascia, but the design of this store – and there only four other Divideds, in four other European countries – is not intended to appeal to those for whom crafted shopfits are an essential element of the in-store experience.
The obvious question, therefore, for this part of the fashion market anyway, is why bother with design at all and, equally, can the principle be profitably extended to other parts of the retail spectrum?
But here’s the rub. This is a format that flatters to deceive. Rough-and-ready-looking youth-led stores are as much a product that emerges from the designer’s drawing board or Mac as, say, the recently opened Banana Republic on Regent Street. On the first evening of trading it was quite hard to even get inside Divided.
H&M has correctly surmised that if you are going to open a store in an area of London celebrated for being home to the likes of Amy Winehouse then you’d better be sure that it doesn’t smack of West End slickness. The Divided store in Stockholm is far less beguiling, owing to its location in a pretty workaday shopping centre in the middle of the city.
What Divided Camden or American Apparel in the northern reaches of Covent Garden for that matter represents, is a keen awareness of customers who favour indie-style shops. The interesting bit will be to see whether the Swedish retailer reckons there are other Camden-like areas in cities such as Manchester or Liverpool. There are and it should move quickly. This is a format that can quickly and easily be copied.