From being a retail backwater around a decade ago, Regent Street has become central London’s must-visit destination.
Time was when if you wanted tartan, in a variety of forms, then the central London destination of choice might have been the lower end of Regent Street. Back then, around a decade ago, a large part of this long, grand thoroughfare was somewhere that the majority of shoppers might have passed through on the way to somewhere else, pausing perhaps to buy a tartan blanket.
Ten years on and the street is an inventory of retail’s great and good from Apple, which was in large measure responsible for the street’s renaissance when it opened in 2004, to latest recruit Longchamp, which opened its largest store to date last Thursday.
The point about Regent Street is that over the last decade it has become the default landing point for international brands looking to make a splash when they arrive in Europe. And although rents in this neck of the woods are respectably high, this seems to act as little deterrent for retailers who want to be noticed.
Sometimes it seems to work as a springboard, with H&M format Cos having started life here and now being found in numerous locations across the continent. Other retailers would appear to treat it as a place to raise awareness, with Brooks Brothers having opened a store on the strip and Abercrombie & Fitch, just off Regent Street, having European outlets in Paris and a handful in Germany.
Whatever the retail strategy, this avenue of prime retail has been more or less sculpted in terms of the retailers found along its length, a feature that it shares with nearby Marylebone High Street. This is where retail comes out to show off.
And the outcome is that this is that retail rarity, a destination where there are rather more would-be tenants than there are places to house them. There have of course been casualties, with Ferrari being one of the more high profile of late, while Dutch casualwear retailer The Sting at the Piccadilly end regularly looks short of shoppers.
Nevertheless, if a retailer were looking to ensure that its brand is inspected by press, pundits and, most of all, shoppers, there are few better places to turn to. The arrival of the J Crew behemoth at the beginning of November will doubtless have tongues chattering, but there are still more to come.