There is a school of thought that says as soon as a store opens that it’s already out of date. But give a store a chance.

It’s always amazing how fickle some people are when it comes to new in-store environments. On Thursday US retailer Urban Outfitters opened a new store, this time in Camden. It’s on the site of a former cinema that morphed into a market that has now become a street fashion store.

It looks good and the in-house team has been sensitive to the building’s history and to keeping almost everything that made the interior distinctive intact. And like almost every other Urban Outfitters, this one was different from any other branch. The store is, in effect, the equivalent of the anti-format format – you know where you are, but it’s different from any of its sister outlets.

Yet having tweeted a quick and dirty pic of the interior, it was a matter of minutes before it was being dissed online by someone who said that stores of this kind are “all beginning to look the same” with the question being posed: “Where’s original now”?

The point perhaps about this is that there are still fewer than 30 UK Urban Outfitters – a handful when compared to some of the larger fashion chains. Its version of reach-me-down chic also happens to fit perfectly with the Camden Market locality and it does what it does better than most in the area.

Yet still the complaint is made. The problem is one of retail professionals. Most of those in the retail business will travel from location to location, ticking off stores on a seen-it-all-before list as they do so. Follow this approach and you will almost certainly tire of what you see very quickly. It does however fail to take account of the fact that there are, for example, very few Urban Outfitters in the UK – which may be a good thing (scarcity tends to breed value)– and that the great majority of shoppers who head into one, with the possible exception of central Londoners), will not have been into another recently.

Retail design is always looking for the next big thing and this is a positive. When this translates however into a ‘been there, seen it’ mentality, perhaps account should be taken of the fact that others may not have. And perhaps pertinently, Urban Outfitters at least is one of the few retail organisations that does work towards creating difference. Being original is difficult, but credit where it’s due. 

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