The new flagship from fashion retailer Oasis on London’s Tottenham Court Road is playing a big role in the renaissance of the area.
In the not so distant past London’s Tottenham Court Road might have been described – somewhat harshly – as featuring only electronics and empty shops, punctuated by Heal’s, Habitat and Paperchase.
Now the branded electronics stores are a thing of the past, the furniture retailers have raised their game and things at the southern end of this long thoroughfare have been transformed.
In addition to the Primark flagship that opened in 2012, there is now a branch of fashion retailer Paper, both of which are followed by a brace of eateries and then the big furniture players, from DFS to West Elm.
“This is a shop that many are likely to stumble upon and which will prove a ‘find’ when this happens”
As Hash Ladha, chief operating officer at Oasis, puts it: “Tottenham Court Road is becoming fashion, then food, then furniture.”
The stretch at the southern end that houses the fashion and food element has been dubbed Tottenham Court Walk by developer Derwent and is the newest element in the street’s renaissance.
Oasis is one of the more prominent incomers after identifying the area’s altered make-up as an opportunity to open a flagship store.
There is already an Oasis flagship less than a mile away on Argyll Street – clearly, Oasis is content to refer to any prominent larger store as a ‘flagship’ which, rather than heading up a fleet, acts as an inspiration to those who are visiting, and the new store should be viewed in that light.
But neither Argyll Street nor Tottenham Court Road is Oxford Street, which is a deliberate strategy, according to Ladha: “In the big regional centres we’re right in the middle of things, but in the city centres we tend to be just slightly off-pitch.”
The southern end of Tottenham Court Road is certainly not as prime as Oxford Street, but given the way in which things are moving it might not be “off-pitch” by Ladha’s standards for much longer.
For the moment however, this is a shop that many are likely to stumble upon and which will prove a ‘find’ when this happens.
Setting the tone
Somewhat optimistically, there are tables and chairs alongside the exterior of the shop window, accompanied at one end by a turquoise cart bearing the logo “Saucer & Spritz Coffee to Cocktails”.
On the day of visiting, Storm Jonas was just hitting and no brave souls had opted to take a seat.
Even so, the outside seating area provides a vital clue about the nature of what lies within – this is a fashion store that has a cafe-cum-bar as part of its offer.
And if the mood takes the shopper, it also features a beauty parlour called “Pin & Polish”.
These additional services are an attempt by Oasis to create an environment that will encourage shoppers to linger and to provide reasons for them to return beyond the fashion.
Inside, the fit out has been designed by consultancy Dalziel & Pow, working in collaboration with the in-house team, and stepping through the door, it is apparent that this is different from other high-profile stores in the retailer’s portfolio.
The shop is arranged over two floors. The larger ground floor is used to showcase Oasis’ fashion ranges, while upstairs there is a bit more fashion and then what looks like an Edwardian birdcage – home to Saucer & Spritz, the cafe and bar.
At the back of the floor there are two rooms that comprise the beauty area.
Back to the ground floor however and one of features that will strike any visitor are the surreal images that line the walls, contained in rectangular and circular frames.
The semi-atrium at the front of the shop is filled with them and close examination reveals that they have less to do with fashion but are more concerned with setting a tone.
Overall, the effect is arresting and evokes a highly-stylised Georgian aesthetic.
The “House of Oasis” format, of which this is a development, has been around for a while and a roll-out across the estate is almost complete.
What marks this branch out however are elements such as the pictures, the moving digital Georgian windows behind the cash desk and the first floor.
Climb the stairs and the white filigree-looking birdcage structure is to the left. To the right there is a line of flying birds on the wall of the kind generally deployed as an ironic design statement. In this instance they are formed of hot pink neon tubes, taking an established interior trope and giving it a twist.
And so to the cafe. This features a mix of materials that might not naturally be put together, coffee mug lampshades, deliberately non-matching chairs and a black-tiled bar being just a few, but collectively they work.
There is ambient light on this floor, but it is kept low, with the accent lighting coming from a diverse range of pendant lights.
Ladha says that the aim is to make Saucer & Spritz a focal point for shoppers by including a series of regular events such as “knitting and book clubs” where attendees can also “have a glass of Prosecco”.
This cafe is such a strong piece of in-store theatre that it would be easy to overlook the rest of the floor, but for those who manage to tear themselves away from the tea and cake, there are more clothes and then the discreet beauty rooms, accessed through an arch that has been painted, like the rest of the floor, in a quiet grey.
A personal styling service started in the store last week, which Ladha says should make the experience of visiting this branch “all-encompassing”.
Oasis, Tottenham Court Road is a good store therefore and different from others in the retailer’s portfolio.
“Our plan is to experiment with the new cafe format in some more stores, outside London as well”
Hash Ladha, Oasis
Ladha says: “We are going to do some stuff on the customer this spring. Our plan is to experiment with the new cafe format in some more stores, outside London as well.
“Outside London, in some of the smaller towns, the concept is even more ‘community’ because there’s far less competition.”
Tottenham Court Road has long played second fiddle to Oxford Street, but with stores such as the new Oasis gradually taking the place of what was there before, the gulf between the two is narrowing rapidly.
Increasingly, there is every reason for shoppers to keep walking round the corner when they reach Primark at the eastern end of Oxford Street and in so doing they will find a new retail world is evolving.
Oasis, Tottenham Court Road
Opened Late 2015
Status Concept/flagship store
Design In-house and Dalziel & Pow
Highlight The cafe-cum-bar
Ambience Modern Georgian
Size 3,200 sq ft