An old army adage states that “God is on the side of the big battalions,” and if the example of some of the largest European retailers is anything to go by, this looks to be about right. A couple of weeks ago, the Westfield Stratford City mall in east London became host to the largest H&M outpost in the U.K. to date. At more than 50,000 square feet, it’s the size of a mid-league department store, and with beauty, home and fashion, it covers much of the territory that you’d expect of a general merchandise retailer. It also happens to look good, and if you want a slice of Euro-homewares credibility to lighten up your home, look no further.
At the same time, in the Westfield London shopping center on the other side of London, the combination of a former Banana Republic and an existing Zara store has resulted in that location emerging to top the leaderboard for the biggest Inditex (parent of Zara) store in the U.K.
Whether this means that retailers are looking at malls and deciding that they’re a good bet when set against more central, downtown destinations is a moot point, but it does say that if you want to succeed, go large. And while you’re at it, decrease the number of stores that you have in a particular market.
Both Zara and H&M have actually closed some of their U.K. stores recently, in high-profile locations, opting instead to have fewer stores, but to trade from outposts where their entire range can be showcased under one roof.
In a digital age, this appears to be the way of the future. We can all buy stuff from the web, but when we do go shopping, we want the best that there is out there, and one way of doing this is to open flagship-style stores where this desire can be sated. Bigger, better and fewer. Way to go.
John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.