H&M's first Arket store opens, store is busy, shoppers praise quality, kidswear
Having traditionally chosen Regent Street as its brand launchpad (the first-ever branches of & Other Stories and Cos are nearby), the company took over a previous Banana Republic flagship and gave it a minimalist, Scandi makeover.
Early on there were no H&M designer collaboration-style queues outside early on, which seemed fitting given the low-key styling of the store and the clothing and other goods within it. But by opening time, around 70 people were lined up outside suggesting strong interest on day one. The store looked busy as the afternoon wore on with lots of people curious to see what the new brand would offer.
So what will shoppers find in the 17,000 sq ft space? Womenswear, menswear and kidswear plus a homewares department and a café. This is clearly a chain aimed at the Millennial and Gen X consumer who may or may not have a family but who is certainly not looking for teenage fast fashion.
Arket, which means ‘a piece of paper’ in Swedish, aims to offer an “everyday uniform” of staples with a focus on quality rather than chasing transitory high street trends. Prices are premium. A fishtail parka is £150, a Melton wool belted coat is £175, and organic merino sweater is £69, and oversized silk shirt £99, a cotton stretch blazer £150, and a chambray wrap dress £99. On the accessories front, a medium-sized leather cross body bag is £150 and a pair of suede Chelsea boot is £150. T-shirts come in a choice of weights and outerwear pieces can be teamed with ultra functional liners (with or without sleeves) so they can be adapted to the temperature.
It’s all a normcore/gender-neutral lover’s dream with low-key neutral tones dominating and patterns kept understated. It’s also likely to appeal to the shopper who already visits Cos, which is just a few steps away from the new store across Great Marlborough Street.
But unlike Cos, where womenswear occupies the ground floor and menswear is on the first floor, Arket’s menswear greets you a soon a you walk through the door. Arket’s creative director Ulrika Bernhardtz earlier this week described the womenswear as “an evolution of classic pieces from the men’s wardrobe” interpreted for women with softer textures and details including pointelle, embroidery, pleats and gathers.
Shoppers we spoke to were generally happy but some weren't expecting the offer to be so minimalist or to have such premium prices. However, they praised the quality, and plenty of them loved the kidswear.
But it's not all about clothes. Supporting the idea of the store as a market experience that reinforces the joy of physical shopping, there's also a beauty department and the homewares offer doesn’t only include decorative piece but items such as dishcloths, a dustpan and brush, and chopping boards, as well as the more expected cushions, vases and candleholders.
Meanwhile the café features food and drink overseen by Arket’s chef Martin Berg, a supporter of the New Nordic food manifesto that’s all about purity, freshness, simplicity, an ethical approach, seasonal foods, well-being, animal welfare and supporting local producers. But its also about fun with a kid-focused peanut butter and jelly sandwich on offer.
As mentioned, the new Regent Street store is close to a number of other H&M-owned chains, including Cos, H&M itself, & Other Stories, Weekday (which is just next door) and Monki around the corner in Carnaby Street.
But while H&M is certainly pumping major investment into London, Arket will see a relatively fast rollout of other international branches. As well as a Covent Garden store due soon, there will also be stores in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Brussels, all of them markets that are likely to welcome the Arket concept with open arms.
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