Arcadia’s recent results mask the fact that there are some less than ideal formats in the group
As an organisation, Arcadia has everything going for it. There’s Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, and, er, Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge. There are also, of course, Bhs and Burton, among others, but you don’t get to hear about them very often, particularly Burton.
Burton’s current in-store display scheme features wallpaper printed up either with brickwork or raw, unfinished concrete. This is then stapled to the perimeter, forming a backdrop for the stock – mostly check shirts and twisted seam denim jeans. All well and good, except that anybody who’s ever done any wallpapering will know that lining up the pattern so that the ‘repeat’ matches, to achieve a seamless appearance, is essential if the job’s going to look finished.
At the Arndale centre, not only had this not been done, but parts of the wallpaper were coming away from the walls where they hadn’t been adequately secured. Unloved and unwelcoming were the overriding impression and the staff barely looked up as a potential shopper entered the store.
Not wishing to be unfair about this, it seemed to make sense to visit another branch. So yesterday a trip was made, in the rain, to Croydon, to see how the brand fares elsewhere. Roughly two hundred miles south of the Arndale store, the story was the same – mismatched wallpaper, crumpled in places and a very densely merchandised space – probably because it occupies the smallish upper floor of premises it shares with Dotty P.
A short walk away was Topman and again, it really wasn’t hard to see why this brand is doing so well. Punchy visual merchandising was coupled with an attention to display detail that was completely lacking in Burton. There was also the sense that this is about fashion, where Burton is about commodity, even if elements are fashionable.
This may sound harsh, but on the other hand, even allowing for the fact that Burton is operated as a separate business from Topman, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suppose that best practice might find its way around some of the less high-profile parts of the Arcadia Group.
The recent unveiling of a 13% profit hike means there’s an awful lot that’s right about the way Arcadia does things. But it’s pretty clear that Burton is not part of this. Perhaps the Topman VM team in Croydon or Manchester could take a stroll around the corner and sort out Burton. A few deft touches and this could be so much better.