Following the opening of two stores in a week, H&M’s growing estate on London’s Regent Street is a microcosm of the Scandinavian fashion giant’s expansion worldwide. As of 31 May 2017, the group had 4,498 stores across the world, 10% up on the previous year, matching a 10% increase in profits in Q2. Exciting times indeed, and so GDR Innovation Researchers Charlie Lloyd and Matilde Ricon Peres were very keen to attend the opening of Arket’s new flagship to see what makes it stand out.
There’s a section of Regent Street that H&M is fast monopolising. Earlier this month the group opened the first UK store for its denim-focused fashion brand Weekday there, joining H&M, & Other Stories and Cos nearby. Friday’s opening of the group’s youngest brand Arket next door to Weekday completes a quintet of H&M brands in close proximity to one another, while Monki and Cheap Monday are moments away on Carnaby Street.
Arket has been conceptualised as a ‘modern-day’ market, with the Regent Street store’s offering spanning fashion, homewares and a smattering of food items. Inside, the store is visually arresting from the moment you walk in, with clothing arranged by colour palette instead of by type of garment as most stores are. This results in a kaleidoscopic sweep of colour across different parts of the store that is incredibly pleasing on the eye. Drapes of fabric and jars of powder also arranged throughout the store by colour add to this aesthetic. A staid backdrop of grey walls and shelving provides a tasteful canvas on which these arrangements can shine.
This colour-led approach is mirrored on Arket’s newly-launched website, which includes a pinwheel as a search tool allowing users to search for items by colour.
Another interesting feature in the store is its underwear packaging. Both men’s and women’s underwear is packaged in compact cardboard envelopes filed away on shelves, offering a novel and tasteful alternative to traditional underwear merchandising. The clothes themselves are a little more upmarket than those of H&M’s core brand, with pricing closer to & Other Stories and Cos. In keeping with the rising British demand for all things Nordic, the clothes are distinctively Scandinavian – from bobble hats to woolly jumpers – mostly in one colour or muted patterns.
The homeware section of the store is placed in the middle of the ground floor, breaking up the menswear area in a way that complements the market-style concept. Functional items, such as kitchen utensils and tableware, sit alongside more decorative items including ceramic mushrooms and bowls resembling cabbage leaves. Throughout the store personal care items, such as body wash and hand lotion, are also on sale in clean, minimalist packaging. A cafe completes the space, offering on-trend Nordic staples, such as smashed avocado, while a small number of foodstuffs including balsamic vinegar and olive oil are on sale nearby.
Next-door to Arket is the almost-as-new Weekday, which opened just a week previously. The store has a different atmosphere to Arket, with shoppers greeted by loud music in-keeping with Weekday’s focus on streetwear and denim. The Weekday store includes a printing area where items are printed with different slogans each week based on anything that’s gone viral or is otherwise in the zeitgeist at that time, constituting an innovative way of keeping the store’s offering fresh and relevant on a regular basis.
It’s an exciting time for H&M, and it will be fascinating to see whether these new stores precede many more Arket and Weekday openings elsewhere.