Sonos amps up the aspiration with its new Seven Dials store, but does it sound any good?
The northern fringes of Covent Garden are collectively grouped together under the moniker ‘Seven Dials’, after the roundabout that has as many roads converging on it.
The area actually lies pretty much mid-way between Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden stations, and as well as a large number of well-known brands, it is home to some of central London’s more esoteric offerings.
This has proved to be particularly the case with the store that sits at the point where the northern part of Earlham Street meets the Seven Dials roundabout.
For a while, this was the UK flagship for Le Coq Sportif, the French sportswear brand.
Then, in the summer this year it became a Magnum pop-up store and from November 16 it will be a standalone Sonos store.
Sonos, for those not on nodding terms with upscale hi-fi, is a US-based brand of speakers.
Its products are almost as much about looking good as they are about sound, although this is the principal objective, and to sell merchandise at this level, the store has to provide an experience.
“This is a store ‘experience’ in which Sonos speakers can be listened to in environments that might be similar to some shoppers’ homes”
From the outside, owing to its position between streets, this 2,500sq ft, two-floor store is triangular in shape with the entrance at the apex.
Large amounts of glazing on two sides of this triangle ensure that visitors can get a sense of what lies within long before heading through the door.
This means that the store’s two ‘homes’, a major part of the ground floor’s theatre, act as a shiny beacon for those considering visiting.
Standing at the entrance, these open-fronted structures with gabled roofs grab the eye ahead of anything else in the interior.
This is, of course, the plan. The handiwork of local artists and a series of curated objects have been used to decorate the walls of the ‘homes’, each of which is intended to be ‘domestic’ in feel and scale.
Sonos brings home the sound
This is intended to be a store ‘experience’ in which Sonos speakers can be listened to in environments that might be similar to some shoppers’ homes.
The reality is that unless you happen to live in a highly-priced Docklands apartment with slick furnishings and fixtures, what is on view is highly aspirational.
For Sonos shoppers, getting as far as one of the ‘homes’ probably means having waited in the lounge area, located directly in front of them.
Chad Lundeen, global retail platform and innovation leader, points out that the reason for the lounge is that it allows shoppers to get up close and personal with the merchandise ahead of a test-drive in one of the ‘homes’.
“We want to sell speakers, but we also want people to have happy homes”
Chad Lundeen, Sonos
The lounge actually has a lot in common with the ‘homes’ as it features a ‘cultural wall’ on which more artwork is given space to be admired.
Lundeen comments: “We want to sell speakers, but we also want people to have happy homes and this is part of this.”
There is also an ‘interactive player bench’ on this floor – a case of play before you buy.
Head downstairs and the mood alters substantially, with the basement being a lecture theatre meets event space with little in the way of merchandise.
All of the furniture on display is bespoke and as Lundeen puts it: “[The aim], as in New York, is to transform the floor from a retail space to an event-based space.”
A second European Sonos store will open in Berlin in March. For dedicated fans, a much larger Sonos store is located in New York’s SoHo. It contains seven ‘homes’ – possibly a measure more of the brand’s origin than any reflection on either London or Berlin.
There will never be more than a handful of these stores, as the unit price of the products ensures a degree of exclusivity.
But for those in search of an experience when buying speakers, instead of a room full of boxes of various shapes and sizes, this is a good option and should find favour with fans of the brand.
Does the Sonos store sound good?
- The experience is a blend of roomsets for product demos, a theatre-in-the-round basement and an area that has been ‘personalised’ by artists
- The store interior is slick and highly ‘designed’, but not so much as to be intimidating
- As an exercise in getting up close and personal with a brand, this is a fine example
- Although this is about selling speakers, the feeling of shifting units is not overt, which should find favour with contact-wary millennials
- The store is good enough to act as a destination in its own right