The White Company has opened a flagship store on Marylebone High Street, just in time for the season of goodwill.
On the face of it, a store that sells products where the great bulk are white should have a slim chance of success.
Yet The White Company seems to go from strength to strength.
Whether it’s sheets, candles or childrenswear; as long as it is white, shoppers seem to give it the thumbs up.
A couple of years ago, The White Company opened a store in Norwich that looked like a little piece of Beverly Hills in the heart of a medieval city.
It shone out like a beacon, with the frontage being a large rendered white surface with a few windows to allow shoppers a view into the white interior.
That store was a flagship for The White Company – making it unusual for being outside London.
“The store is intended to be less like a shop and more like a home”
Steve Morris, The White Company
Now the status quo has been restored, to an extent, and the original store on Marylebone High Street has closed, to be relocated further along the thoroughfare.
It would now probably be regarded as a flagship.
But unlike the Norwich emporium, this branch is about going with the local flow – from the outside, it looks very much of a piece with its neighbours.
Yet it still manages to stand out, largely owing to its monochrome appearance, giving it an immediate point of difference.
Steve Morris, retail and people director, says that internally “we’ve maintained an awful lot of what we did in Norwich, but we played with some of it, particularly the rooms”.
“The store is intended to be less like a shop and more like a home,” he says.
The Norwich store template was the outcome of work with consultancy Dalziel + Pow, while for the Marylebone branch, The White Company employed Household.
Walk into the Marylebone store and shoppers will feel reassured by the softly lit plain wood and black steel perimeter equipment with, of course, a white painted wood table in the middle of the area.
There is an enclosed area that looks, for all the world, like a shop-in-shop from the aspirational fragrance-purveyor Jo Malone.
Chief executive officer Will Kernan says that while there may be a passing resemblance to Jo Malone, shopping for fragrances or scented candles at The White Company is considerably more cost effective than at many of its rivals.
To the right of this space there is what might be termed a gifting area, although it is fair to say that this covers almost everything in The White Company.
Wood tables, wicker baskets and the occasional small digital lightbox set among the mid-shop displays combine to give this part of the store a sense of a Christmas market – backed up by strings of white lights.
The effect is one of muddled plenty. Rather than using a straightforward category approach, this style lends credence to idea of the shop interior being closer to a home vista than a shop.
This store is about detail and the more you look, the more you see.
The stairwell that leads to the basement level features black metal letters attached to the wall, reading: “Make your dreams come true here”.
The graphic is typical of the store’s tone of voice, rather than a sign that states ‘Bedrooms and bed linen downstairs’.
Head of visual and in-store creative Brendan Davey says of the store: “We wanted a more emotive brand connection [for The White Company shoppers].”
The rest of the ground floor is comprised of the cash desk – a thing of white beauty with screens recessed into the countertop – and a kids’ shop that is a discrete space at the back of the store.
The latter provides colour; real colour.
Adults may be monochrome in black, white or grey marl cashmere, but The White Company-clad children are not.
Standout elements worth noting include the White (Company) Christmas room-set with comfy sofas and a fireplace stacked with logs painted white and a silver, and a grey Christmas decoration graphic about halfway through the floor that is simple, understated and eye-catching.
Heading downstairs, the domestic feel increases.
Pride of place goes to the bedroom vignettes, aka ’The Sleep Zone’, where 1,000-count sheets and pillowcases can be found.
Davey points out that the business of buying bed linen is actually quite difficult.
Therefore, guiding shoppers through the selection process has been central to the design.
“Our brand is so complex and we never want self-service. We want assisted selling,” he says.
A series of ash perimeter shelves with drawers, each with small white cards with product information, help to make sense of shopping a space when more or less everything is white.
All of the beds have a backdrop, which is about mood creation.
Kernan comments: “What’s great is that the point-of-sale is so consistent across the shop.”
This is also a modular shopfit, meaning that many of the features on view can be taken to other stores without a complete rethink.
It’s about value engineering being done from the outset, rather than being conducted retrospectively.
This is a highly aspirational, nay luxury, interior, but it is accessible.
As is the case with the best upmarket offers, there is something for everybody.
Entry-price articles and displays are given the same prominence as top-end items.
It may be a proposition that, on paper, would have people scratching their heads.
But the store has a beautiful and restful interior that, in addition to likely pushing up dwell-times, makes the matter of browsing a pleasure.
The White Company, Marylebone High Street
November 10, 2016
5,000 sq ft
Number of floors
Relaxed and pampered
The Sleep Zone