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April 3, 2009 5:49 PM

Eye, Fashion

Topshop Lessons

Poppy Delevigne and Julia Restoin Roitfeld try out Topshop wares. There's a huge halo hanging over Topshop's first U.S. store. After days of celebrity packed parties, viral hype, guerrilla marketing and distributing discounts and cheese biscuits in the streets,...

Poppy Delevigne and Julia Restoin Roitfeld try out Topshop wares.
There's a huge halo hanging over Topshop's first U.S. store.

After days of celebrity packed parties, viral hype, guerrilla marketing and distributing discounts and cheese biscuits in the streets, the 40,000-square-foot SoHo emporium opened Thursday to big crowds, predominantly teenage and twentysomething girls -- an audience of intrepid shoppers and fashion bloggers keeping up on the latest trends. Whether traffic patterns hold up sufficiently over time remains to be seen.

You have to wonder what's behind the initial response -- curiosity built up by the Topshop hype machinery and its rock 'n' roll aura, or a deeper consumer hunger for new and unique trendy fashion that potentially translates into sustained sales?

Already, Topshop is considering opening additional locations in the U.S., but cautiously awaits the results from SoHo. If the flagship meets or beats sales objectives, a rollout is a certainty. It's a question of whether Topshop's edgy, trendy styles and items appeal to a large enough segment of the population to support expansion, or if it's just all too British for American taste. Sir Philip Green, Topshop's owner, believes there is room for the retailer in the U.S. Not hundreds and hundreds of stores, but maybe dozens in heavy trafficked areas in major cities. "If H&M and Zara are here, why can't we be?" Green asked rhetorically.

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View Topshop's Three Wild Nights of Launch Parties
Night One >>
Night Two >>
Night Three >>
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In any event, the arrival of Topshop is a good lesson learned for domestic retailers. The company has succeeded in delivering what most retailers lack -- a point of view. There's a consistency in the merchandising and sense the store knows its audience. Call it a state-of-the-art sense of identity.

There's also a sense of old-fashioned showmanship and risk-taking, achieved with a multitude of quick-turning items reflecting hot trends of different eras, and youthful irreverence throughout. There's not much reliance on basics or classics and everything must have a fashion twist.

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What's your opinion of the new Topshop? Comment below >>
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In terms of interior design or architecture, Topshop is not lavish. The most impressive features are the tall windows and escalators and the generosity of space. It's among SoHo's largest stores, with 28,000 square feet for selling. But the flair lies in Topshop's quirky display theatricality, with some cheesy marquees and floral decorations, illustrations of London icons, and provocatively positioned mannequins that fill the store. Not to mention its link with Kate Moss, who designs a collection for the store.

And now that the dust has settled on the opening, one thing remains clear: While the retail industry drags through the recession, the high-flying Topshop has proven there is still room for fun, fashion and to introduce something new to the market.
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