In the cut-throat world of the high street, there is only one question that retailers need to answer: ‘Why should I come into your shop?’
Affordable luxury is, at first sight, a phrase that might seem a little bit of a contradiction in terms. It’s like the dreadful term “masstige” which was dreamt up by marketers at some point in the last decade. And yet, in these difficult times, when not only have we suffered economically, are currently forced to listen to endless pep talks from politicians and now we can’t even go anywhere (not by air, anyway), the term does have some validity.
Take a walk along the north side of Oxford Street heading west from Oxford Circus and one of the first stores you will encounter is Zara. It has just changed its windows and come up with a window scheme that encapsulates affordable luxury - the kind of everyday treat that most of us can stretch to.
In this instance, helping shoppers along the aspirational path is realised by a catwalk-like scene in which mannequins all sporting white clothing and with shocking white pompadours, look like the kind of thing you’d see at a fashion show.
It’s an arresting image and it was making passers-by stop and take a second look on a Saturday when the normal reaction is to leave busy Oxford Street as quickly as possible.
And what the visual merchandising team at Zara have understood is that this is a brand that people who can’t necessarily afford high style, but who’d like a little of the glamour that goes with it, will buy because it looks luxury, even although it is absolutely high street.
All of which is the heart of good retailing. It’s not enough to have a good range. In the cut-throat world of the high street, there is only one question that retailers need to answer: ‘Why should I come into your shop?’
Answering the question means appealing to the universal desire to want something just a little better than you think you can afford. Pander to this and the makings of a good business are in place. For shoppers in recessionary times, keeping up appearances is more important than ever.
There are, of rouse, a lot of very average window displays along Oxford Street that answer a question that really hasn’t been asked: ‘How cheap can you make things?’ With the possible exception of Primark with its ‘Primarni’ offer, shoppers want to be made to feel special rather than cheap.
Zara in particular and Inditex in general seem to be embracing this idea with open arms currently.