Standing on a rainy sidewalk in New York on Friday, it was hard to find much to be enthusiastic about. The mood in the city was resolutely downbeat and the number of buildings with the words “Retail For Rent” plastered across them served as an indication of the malaise that has hit the city hard.
There were some exceptions, of course, with Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship Fifth Avenue store as busy as ever - full of young things and their long-suffering parents, celebrating the power of a brand with truly international pulling power. There was also the visual merchandising to gawp at.
Uniqlo’s strange glass museum case with asymmetric white wood shelves inside - placed at the front of its Broadway store and filled with mannequins in striking poses - was certainly making shoppers stop, even if only briefly, as they made their way downtown towards the latest big thing - Topshop.
And on its second day of Big Apple trading, Topshop New York had still managed to garner a substantial queue, waiting in the driving rain for the store to open at 10am. But it was pretty much on its own in terms of persuading people to buy - the rest of this part of SoHo was ominously quiet.
As well as Topshop, however, there was one store in town that seemed a little busier than its rivals - Anthropologie. As the UK awaits its arrival in the autumn, the retailer’s store in lower Manhattan showed why this is a brand that we in our turn should be getting excited about.
Standing outside looking in, display staff armed with glue guns were creating what can only described as a tree formed of waxed post-it notes, all of which were a faded sepia in colour. The effect was startling and demonstrated what every good visual merchandiser knows, that creativity rather than price is what makes a window worth having a look at.
Unlike Topshop, this is a retail brand that most people in the UK will have never heard of and it’s pretty unlikely that its debut in this country will be accompanied by the kind of razzamatazz that Sir Philip Green had succeeded in orchestrating for the opening of his New York store.
That said, if the display and stock are anything like as good as what was on offer in New York last week, this will be one to watch… and possibly buy from.