Online and catalogue fashion brand Boden opened its first store on Friday. John Ryan visited it and talked to the retailer’s founder, Johnnie Boden.
Chelsea’s Duke of York Square is a classy affair with shops ranging from Joseph to Jigsaw, Cos to All Saints. It also boasts a fine range of cafés and restaurants for those who’ve had enough of browsing.
All this and the Saatchi Gallery, which pulls in its fair share of art-loving and well-heeled potential shoppers.
Given its position, just a couple of minutes from Sloane Square Tube station, it is perhaps little surprise that when it came to the matter of choosing a location for its first shop (although it has had an outlet store in northwest London since 2004), it was top of the list for online and catalogue fashion brand Boden.
“This sort of thing does not come cheap, and to make this 4,600 sq ft, two-floor shop a going concern, sales will have to average around £10,000 a day”
This sort of thing does not come cheap, and to make this 4,600 sq ft, two-floor shop a going concern, sales will have to average around £10,000 a day.
This sounds a lot, but high footfall and aspirational ticket prices make it possible, if the store measures up as planned.
Founder Johnnie Boden says that the inspiration for the interior of this store, which has floor-to-ceiling glazing on the exterior with the brand’s name emblazoned across it in bright yellow, was “my home”.
At this point, it is perhaps worth noting that Boden grew up in rural Hampshire, not far from Winchester. This is the sort of home that doesn’t do ‘flash’, but where money is nonetheless not too much of a concern.
It’s this English restraint that informs the Boden store environment in the heart of Chelsea and as such will probably chime with the ‘up from the country’ set so frequently found in this part of London.
Boden called on consultancy Dalziel & Pow to help with the design of his first store and initial impressions are indeed domestic.
‘My home’ turns out to be “the panelling, the art, the lighting, the rugs, the music”, according to Boden, and the store’s proximity to John Lewis’ Peter Jones flagship reinforces the sense that, for shoppers looking for a distinctly English/British sensibility, this is the right end of the King’s Road.
“Only 10% of our target market actively hates us. There are quite a number of people who hate colour”
Much of what is on view is about the visual merchandising. Wherever you look on the high-ceilinged womenswear ground floor, bright colours – the clothes and the velvet-covered seating and sofas – are in evidence.
“Only 10% of our target market actively hates us,” says Boden, adding: “There are quite a number of people who hate colour.”
This, then, might not be a store interior for the monochrome north London crowd, but it will do for most, providing their pockets are sufficiently well lined.
The ground floor is in fact quite narrow, stretching from an entrance on the King’s Road to another from Duke of York Square. This ensures high levels of natural light on this level and also increases footfall into the store.
This is important as there are a large number of stores in the Duke of York Square development that require shoppers to make a diversion from King’s Road in order to access them, decreasing their chances of grabbing passing trade.
The white walls work well with the open-fronted wardrobes used extensively around the perimeter and the high-level niches used for visual merchandising props such as books and vintage suitcases. It’s all very English and on-brand for Boden.
The floor is covered with dark wood planks and the pieces of furniture, used as display vehicles, were chosen by Boden and his team. Finally, there is the lighting, which varies from chandeliers to pendant lights with glass shades.
Head downstairs to the kids’ department, which looks mildly overspaced when it is considered that womenswear accounts for 65% of Boden’s turnover.
“We are actively looking for other stores and we aim to set up in the US within a couple of years. We are determined to make this work”
Yet it does make sense to give the category its own discrete space. It is the staircase that leads to this that is the real showstopper, however.
With white balustrades and dark wood steps, this is an imposing affair, and the navy-blue wall that backs it has pictures that have been grouped together in a manner that is reminiscent of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.
The basement is home to Mini Boden and Baby Boden, but menswear is missing. Boden says that putting menswear and children’s clothing cheek by jowl doesn’t really work and so the decision was taken to omit it from the store.
As an online and catalogue operation, this is a new departure for Boden, but the look and feel is almost exactly what might be expected if shoppers are in any manner familiar with the brand.
It is also not just a one-off. Boden comments: “We are actively looking for other stores and we aim to set up in the US within a couple of years. We are determined to make this work.”
Even allowing for the pricing, there is plenty of reason for supposing that it will.
Boden gets physical with a store that has:
- 4,600 sq ft across two floors
- A distinctly domestic feel to the visual merchandising
- Bright colours across the store
- Entrances from Duke of York Square and King’s Road mean potentially higher footfall
- All of the trappings needed for rapid replication in other towns and cities