Gilly Hicks in Westfield is good, but shouldn’t it be somewhere else?

A quick stroll around Westfield in White City last week was all that was needed to compare how Abercrombie & Fitch brand Hollister stood up to the first UK outlet from sister fascia, “down under undies” brand Gilly Hicks. Hollister has been in the centre since just after the scheme opened a couple of years ago and Gilly Hicks has been there for as many weeks.

And up until now, Hollister has been remarkable in the centre for its storefront, consisting of a south of the border “casa” frontage with tiled roof, windows and an entrance that protrudes out into the mall. There are some pretty unusual storefronts in Westfield, not least the abstract wooden tree version of the Timberland logo that forms the frontage of that brand’s store, but there is nothing else in the shape of a house, albeit a cod Mexican one. Step inside Hollister and it’s a matter of multiple low-lit rooms peopled by excited young shoppers and their parents and, of course, “models” (the staff), who seem determined to check out your welfare whether you want this or not.

Exit the store, walk around the corner and there’s another house. This time it’s a Deep South colonial job with fluted white pillars and a verandah with comfy-floral cushioned wicker chairs on it. It’s on two floors (or at least the store front is – inside it trades from a single level) and yes, there are windows on this one too, from which mannequins dressed in brightly-coloured underwear peep out from behind chintz curtains. Yes, this is Gilly Hicks and at the entrance there is a young man who seems to have forgotten to wear a shirt and has donned an open reefer jacket to preserve his modesty.

This may be different from Hollister but not greatly and it wouldn’t take a degree in marketing to work out that the two stores originate from the same stable. The same, it has to be said, is true of the interior  - many rooms and not much light – other than on the product.

It does look somewhat like a cake and eat it moment – in that the customers in each are very similar and it’s hard to imagine that a transit will not be made by shoppers from one to the other – and there is only so much disposable spend at any given moment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these brands and they will appeal strongly to their target market, but you do have to wonder why Abercombie thought it a good idea to put them in quite such close proximity.

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