Sunday, October 25, 2009

The tricky science of Anthropologie

Anthropologie has opened! Three glorious floors finally filled with all the covetable, strokeable, must-have things we've been drooling over online for years. As we are coming to expect from Regent Street's new retail additions (check out the National Geographic store), the space at Anthropologie is beautifully executed, drawing the eye up and down via a vast living wall and ornate chandeliers. On-brand sales assistants say 'hi', while carrying wicker baskets of merchandise and a pretty floral scent infuses the store's "multi-sensorial" offering with a warm, welcoming feeling.

Here's the 'but' bit and it's the same issue Whole Foods, Banana Republic and Abercrombie forgot about... The English. You can have thousands of stunningly curated floor space, vast changing rooms and eye-popping merchandising but as soon as you let the English public roam all over it, the fantasy is broken. It's difficult to explain. Maybe, because they invented consumerism, Americans are just better at playing the part of awe-struck shoppers, striving to become the target audience the brand is looking to attract. Like a character in a play, Americans seem to meld into their retail environments as if they're been there the whole time. Not so much with us Brits. In our lilac macs and awkward M&S handbags, we stomp around the shops with a permanently aggrieved look on our wind-chapped faces, snatching clothes off rails like dishrags off a washing line. And so, like TopShop and Abercrombie before it, Anthro is assigned to the list of shops "Only worth visiting outside of normal shopping hours so as to avoid the riff raff". For other retail snobs out there, these times include 11.30am on a Sunday, 6-7pm on a Monday and 2.30 - 4pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sad but true.

Photos by HG.