News that value-clothing chain Store Twenty One is pleading with landlords for rent reductions should not be entirely surprising.

News that value-clothing chain Store Twenty One is pleading with landlords for rent reductions should not be entirely surprising. This is a crowded part of the marketplace and the more the economy comes under pressure, the more this is likely to seem attractive to those in search of elusive turnover.

And there is a perverse logic among some of the discount fraternity that because retail space is expensive, almost wherever you happen to be, then in order to make things happen, every square inch of space needs to be sweated. Practically, the outcome of this is stores where the stock may be cheap, but try finding what you want. There’s so much crammed onto every rail that ultimately even the most die-hard bargain hunter may lose the will to live.

When, as occasionally happens, a line, or lines fail to sell as quickly as might be desired, this wood-for-the trees situation becomes exaggerated unless a tubful of markdown pills are ingested – but this rarely happens. All of which is fine if you happen to be called Primark and the crowds flock through the doors on a daily basis devouring almost everything in sight and obviating the need for the red pen, for the most part anyway.

Primark realises the value of giving shoppers room to move and while its mid-floor equipment and perimeter modules sometimes look full to bursting, its stores are places where there is space, with broad walkways and walls that have the occasional merchandise break in them. Not so Store Twenty One and others of its ilk. Whether it’s Peacocks, M&Co or any of the others that operate at this end of the retail spectrum, there is a tendency to cram, cram, cram.

All of which would be fine if shoppers were prepared to overlook in-store standards. The unpalatable truth however is that shoppers currently really do want to have their cake and eat it. They may be buying cheap, but they want to feel good about the business of doing so.

With a few exceptions, interiors in the discount fashion sector are very crowded. The smarter retailers seem to understand that more stock on the floor does not mean more sales – ultimately in-store square footage is a finite commodity and filling it to capacity has within it the seeds of potential disaster. Less is more when it comes to making a store environment appealing – if you’re at the discount ends of things, it just means running backwards and forwards to the stockroom a fair amount…