As we ready ourselves for a return to real life shopping, Browns’ new Brook Street store is the destination of choice for industry insiders.
Online shopping and I have had quite the relationship over the past 12 months. An intimate, co-dependent, sometimes toxic relationship that has seen an influx of parcels make their way to my front door. Not just clothes – of the elasticated waistband and oversized variety, naturally – but beauty products, interiors and candles (so many candles). I relied on online shopping to give me jolts of joy when so much of life was unexciting and mundane. But often, after that first rip to open the packaging, the itch of shopping didn’t feel fully scratched. Like so many people, I have fallen victim to virtual fatigue. Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: April 12.
A date that marks the return of our beloved stores reopening, waiting for us with open arms to wrap us up in a warm and familiar embrace of shopping highs. That wonderfully specific high, only felt when you finally go to that store to get the bag or shoes [delete as appropriate] you have been dreaming about for months – or years – is one many of us will be familiar with. There is almost a nervousness to it. Will said bag/shoes suit me? Will my card get declined? Will the sales assistant think I’m a total fraud? You stumble over your shopper’s anxiety, and there it is: your treasure. You touch it, hold it, cradle it like a new-born child. It’s the same joy that you feel when you physically hand over your money, receive your prized possession and walk out of the door swinging your sturdy branded bag.
Shopping without an aim is equally thrilling: the anticipation of finding something you really want, picking up the hanger and pressing it against your body. Then turning to a friend saying, “Oh my god, I love it. Do you love it? I love it,” while not even listening to their response, because in that moment you’re thinking how could you possibly get dressed without it. The jubilation of such a revelation would naturally result in a pit-stop with said friend. You would talk about all the places you are going to wear your new purchases, the reactions they would generate, the way you would feel over a glass (bottle) of prosecco while resting your weary arms. And then refuelled, the process would begin all over again.
My first port of call when the shops reopen is Browns’ new Brook Street store. Relocating from their iconic South Molton Street residency, the fashion retailer has reconsidered the way we shop into a sartorial retreat. We spoke to Holli Rogers, chair of Browns, to find out exactly how the brand is providing us with a much-needed shopping high.
What does Browns offer that sets it apart from another fashion destination?
We wanted to create a store where we could blend fashion, food, lifestyle and technology together and Browns Brook Street is definitely that; it’s a place to discover and be inspired. With Browns Brook Street, we are bringing together the technology piece with our ‘connected by Farfetch’ customer journey, alongside that really human and personalised element which is critical after so many months of being fully digital. What’s really important to us is to offer luxury not only through product but through our service proposition – we have a restaurant space which is something entirely new for us and it’s the first time we’re able to offer this to our customers which we’re thrilled about it. The partnerships that we are forming through the likes of Native at Browns and the Residencies such as Jenny Longworth really play into our brand values, and that is about finding like-minded creatives and individuals that are part of our community and an extension of our designer offering.
How does the store serve the customer as they come back to shopping in real life?
I personally think that people are looking for that human or personalised connection that is difficult to replicate online. We all love fashion and get into it for the product and I think people are looking forward to being able to touch, feel and try on product again – most importantly they are looking for that element of discovery. We of course can get anything we want online at any time we want - at Browns Brook Street, we’ll be merchandising by vibe, feeling and trend providing our unique take on the season. We know that our customers are missing that personal interaction with their sales associates IRL and they’re keen to really engage with them on what is new in and what we’re getting behind. Also, people will be looking for spaces to explore, hang out, meet friends and even get their nails done – Browns Brook Street offers all of that with that elevated service and more.
What are you most excited to shop in the new store?
I’m excited to immerse myself in fashion again. It feels like a destination you want to dress up for, like those days when going out shopping was an event in itself. I’ll be headed to the shoes on womenswear, the fine jewellery and the incredible edit in the Yellow Room. I can’t wait to catch up with friends in the Courtyard over a Native negroni – who would have thought what an asset that outside space would be!
When so many brands are turning to digital retail, why is it important now for Browns to continue its physical space?
Browns Brook Street cements our belief in physical retail and the importance of the flagship which contains the essence of our brand and a space for us to engage with our community. My background was predominately online before joining Browns and I think both spaces have their unique place within the eco-system of the industry. With online, you have everything at your fingertips – in-store we can educate, inspire and curate, providing a space that showcases our unique viewpoint. 2020 has taught us the importance of having a truly omni-channel approach, and perhaps even cemented the path we were taking. In store, we will have elements such as in-store mode, an extension of the Browns Fashion commerce app which allows you to scan product, check in with a sales advisor and even view what from your wishlist is in store.
Additionally, we will also have the ‘connected mirrors’ which enable storytelling and rich product discovery at the moment purchase decisions are made and that enhance the customer journey through a connection to their sales associate. The adoption of technology has definitely accelerated and by blending these two attributes, we can ensure we are offering a seamless journey across all touch points.
See you at the shops.
Images: Courtesy of Browns