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Over the past decade, Topshop has set itself apart from the rest of the British high street. The retailer’s initiatives include sponsoring young London-based designers, who in turn design collections for the store; setting up nail bars and hair salons in its stores, and tapping Kate Moss to design her first clothing collection. “Topshop has a very strong positioning as a trendsetter,” said Sarah Peters, senior retail analyst at Verdict in London. “It innovates and has its own take on trends.” The chain, which has more than 300 stores in the U.K. and 100 more around the world, is part of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group.
Topshop is known for both intently following and creating trends. Peters at Verdict noted its customers are “less price sensitive as it’s so fashion led.” According to Verdict, Topshop has an estimated 1.8 percent of the U.K.’s clothing market share by value. And it has lots of projects for fall. This season, Topshop will produce three Central Saint Martins masters graduates’ collections for retail. The pieces by Lilly Heine, Matthew Harding and Simone Rocha will be available solely from Topshop’s flagship on Oxford Street. The retailer is also planning a new 40,000-square-foot space to open at the Westfield Stratford City mall, near to the London Olympic Games site, which will open in 2012. It also is pushing further into continental Europe and the Far East, although the jury is still out on its U.S. expansion. The company has one store, in lower Manhattan, and Green is said to be on the prowl for sites in both New York and Los Angeles.
This fast-fashion chain, which now counts 200 stores in countries including the U.K., Ireland and Spain, is known for its ultralow priced yet fashion-forward offer. The chain originated in Dublin in 1969 as Penneys, and launched in the U.K. in 1973, where it began trading as Primark. Since then, the retailer has steadily expanded in the U.K., and in recent years has taken over large vacant spaces from chains whose business models haven’t fared as well. Primark made a particularly big retail splash in 2007, when it opened a 70,000-square-foot flagship on London’s Oxford Street (previously, Primark chiefly operated in local, less visible retail locations). Prices at the retailer are as little as 5 pounds, or $8, for a lingerie set, while skinny jeans retail for 12 pounds, or $19, and a fake fur coat retails for 27 pounds, or $42.
The retailer — part of Associated British Foods, owned by the Weston family that also controls Selfridges, Holt Renfrew and Brown Thomas — has recently been ramping up its design credentials. Later this month, Primark will launch its fourth Limited Edition women’s wear collection, which includes items such as military-inspired lace shirts, tweed jackets and corseted dresses, which are priced up to 30 pounds, or $47, and are available for a limited time in 12 key Primark stores. In May, the retailer introduced a line of men’s T-shirts designed by Ben Allen, a British graphic designer.
However, the store’s low-price philosophy has brought scrutiny to Primark’s sourcing strategies. The British press routinely launches investigations into the ethics of Primark’s suppliers and manufacturers, both in the U.K. and further afield. In response, Primark has launched an ethical trading code of conduct, with targets such as conducting supplier workshops in Bangladesh, China, India, Turkey and the U.K.
It may lack the international name recognition of its rival Uniqlo, but Shimamura Co. Ltd. is another major player in the world of mass-market retailing in Japan.
The company, founded in 1953, operates five different retail brands but Shimamura’s namesake chain is the mainstay of the company’s business. Its 1,162 locations are concentrated in suburban and rural areas of the country rather than in the centers of major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka.
Shimamura offers low-priced casual basics like denim, T-shirts and khakis, as well as shoes for men, women and children. A recent sales flyer featured items like a woman’s knit poncho for 2,900 yen, or about $34, and a double-collared men’s cotton shirt for 1,470 yen, or about $17.
Shimamura Co. Ltd. recorded sales of 429.65 billion yen, or $5.02 billion at current exchange, for the year ended Feb. 20, up 4.6 percent from 2009.
The company’s other retail formats include Avail, which delivers trendier fare to young men and women, and Chambre, which sells casual women’s apparel and accessories, as well as a range of stationery, cosmetics and other items.