The problems swirling around Esprit may not affect its recovery.
Last Wednesday, Hong Kong-listed Euro brand Esprit reopened its Regent Street flagship following a 12-week refit. And at the same time its CEO called it a day, followed shortly afterwards by the chairman. To lose a CEO when you’re in the middle of expediting a recovery programme might be accounted a misfortune. To lose a chairman at almost the same time would seem like carelessness.
A troubled week for a brand that has failed to stamp its authority on the UK and which has not been without its problems more generally when it comes to attracting shoppers. But does this, admittedly compelling, back-story to the remodelling of the 25,000 sq ft UK flagship matter? For the most part, visitors heading along this long strip of upscale shopping will judge each store on its merits as the progress from one end to the other is made. And if one store is not visited it is probably because it is insufficiently appealing.
In the case of Esprit, coloured floors and lighting fixtures that looked like luminescent spaghetti may have had pulling power at one point, but that was some time ago and until this reopening, it looked a mite old-fashioned. Now things have changed. The decision has been taken to follow and develop the revamped store in Cologne and the outcome is a good-looking space that bears more in common with nearby Anthropologie than the face that it previously displayed to the world.
The decision has in fact been taken to try and bring Esprit back to its Californian roots and in the case of Regent Street, the retailer employed edgy design consultancy Brinkworth to make this a reality. A fine job has been done and there is much to commend about the use of raw concrete and natural wood.
The real point however is that while there will doubtless be those who are worrying about the effect that last week’s resignations will have on the brand (not least the Hong Kong stock exchange), for Joe Blow walking down Regent Street, the question will be whether to go into the store or not.
Retailers do exhibit a tendency to be inward looking when it comes to their internal operations and problems, but ultimately the true arbiter of success will be the shopper. On the basis of Regent Street at least, things may not be quite as black as they are being painted by bloggers, journalists and pundits. Industry gossip continues, but so does trading.