Back in the dim and distant past, C&A sold fashion in the UK and was generally reckoned to be pretty good at turning a cut-price penny.
Then, at the beginning of the millennium, all of its stores in this country were closed and the field was left open for retailers such as Primark to sweep up.
There is a school of thought that says the reason for C&A’s failure was that the retailer didn’t change. It grew old with its shoppers and ultimately they started to shuffle off this mortal coil, at which point an inexorable decline set in.
Whatever happened, C&A in the UK was a retailer that progressively offered fewer and fewer reasons for shoppers to pass through its doors.
The same, to a degree, could be said of BHS, which at the time of its 2016 demise was suffering a fate similar to C&A.
H&M in Hammersmith
Nothing of the kind holds true of H&M on the evidence of its newly refurbished store in Hammersmith.
H&M appears to have taken a long hard look at what it is doing and who its customers are, and is prepared to change course accordingly. In situ, this means a store that looks as if it would appeal to a more mature and generally more sophisticated demographic, a cohort that is more moneyed.
It looks fantastic, but the question that perhaps has to be asked is: how far can you take a brand in a new direction without upsetting your core shoppers?
“Perhaps you really can please a lot of the people some of the time”
To judge by the shoppers taking a look around the revamped store, quite a long way. There were still plenty of young fashion fans in H&M Hammersmith, but there were also a lot who were significantly older.
Perhaps you really can please a lot of the people some of the time.
The other point is, do you need to market what is being done, or is it a case of letting shoppers find out for themselves and then spreading the word?
Again, H&M Hammersmith seems to indicate that the latter is the best course, and if things go according to plan it seems a fair bet that there will be more of this West London store’s ilk to come in short order.
Being critical about what you do and what you represent should be a core competence of any retailer, and this might mean the ability to execute a fairly radical change of direction even while the name above the door indicates that you are the same as you have always been.
Hammersmith is a bold move by H&M and it shows, if nothing else, that it is moving to keep pace with where the money is – which should be what retail is all about.