Frugal in this context does not mean cheap, it equates to understanding value and if that means not spending much money, then so much the better.
At Focus’ 170 or so stores, this translates to an initial offer of 200 SKUs, out of about 12,000, that are packaged up with a green and white livery bearing the legend “PAYLESS”. Focus management say there will be a further 800 SKUs added to this offer early in the New Year, meaning that roughly 8 per cent of what is displayed in a Focus store will be a Payless product.
And as in all good launches, you put the newest things at the front of the shop. In practice this means that when you walk into one of this retailer’s outlets means, the value message will be the first thing that you encounter.
The other thing that needs to be done to make it as a retailer with credible value credentials is to indulge in a bit of retro-style austerity advertising. In Focus’ case, this means black and white ads in national newspapers where product and price are conspicuous, but mood and scene-setting are entirely absent. This harks back to the kind of promotion that existed before 1980s agencies gave us ads we remembered, but products we did not.
In short, the Payless launch is symptomatic of a back-to-basics mentality that is seeing our high streets becoming less glamorous places unless you happen to favour austerity chic. And there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a matter of cloth being cut according to available means.
What therefore of Westfield London, which opens on Thursday? Well ahead of its opening, there have been numerous questions about whether its opulent interior and upscale tenants will strike a chord with cash-pressed shoppers. In truth, it may or may not, but as we head into recession, it is in the cyclical nature of things that at an indeterminate point we will emerge from it.
At which point Westfield London will still be there and, given the nature of tenancy agreements, many of the retailers that are about to shake a leg in the mall this week will be as well. Westfield, Cabot Circus and their ilk still look like a good thing, if for no better reason than that they raise the retail bar for shopping centres. This is the future and it’s here now, irrespective of the value zeitgeist that is gripping many retailers