London-based luxury e-tailer MatchesFashion.com opened its new home, 5 Carlos Place, set in the city’s affluent Mayfair district. Housed within an iconic red brick Queen Anne building, the sprawling 7,000-square-foot space spreads across five floors of diverse utility.
The Mayfair address is the latest addition to the retailer’s repertoire of brick-and-mortar establishments. Inherently, the move piques the industry’s skepticism on the commercial viability of a physical store at a time of shifting consumer patterns. The preconceived uncertainty, however, is easily put to rest in dissecting the tailored retail experience curated at the month-old London space.
This store is nothing like the archetypal boutique offering; it is an amalgamation of real and virtual shopping experiences. It is best described as a tangible space where MatchesFashion.com plays host to its consumers, be it those who walk through the door or the ones who prefer to shop online.
With innovation deeply embedded in MatchesFashion.com’s DNA since its beginnings in 1987, 5 Carlos Place is its latest endeavour to stay abreast of consumer patterns. Over an email correspondence with the e-tailer’s chief brand officer Jess Christie, T Singapore delves deeper into the venture and weigh in on the general shifts in consumerism.
KAMES NARAYANAN: What are some of the shifts that you have noticed in consumer buying habits in the past few years?
JESS CHRISTIE: Social media has definitely been the biggest shift. The rise of Instagram and social connectivity has made the global customer savvier than ever about brands, leading to an increased demand for immediacy and inspiration.
KN: Why do you think that now is an opportune time for the debut of 5 Carlos Place?
JC: We want to bring a sense of enjoyment back to physical retail and to collaborate with partners and have conversations that create a sense of community and inspire our customers.
KN: How significant is the portion of sales from your brick-and-mortar stores relative to online sales?
JC: Ninety-five per cent of our sales are driven by online but we don’t look at physical and digital as separate channels — we see them as different customer touch-points. We know that the more MatchesFashion.com touch-points our customers engage with, the more loyalty we drive. For example the customer that visits us online, in store, at an event and via social media will show a significant increase in retention. Already over half of our sales in our stores take place digitally, with our sales associates selling pieces that aren’t physically in the store. So we believe that the interconnectivity at 5 Carlos Place will be key.
KN: As a retailer, what do you think appeals to the contemporary consumer?
JC: I think our job is to inspire the customer by creating an experience where they discover — they come to us for a fashion point of view, paired with an understanding of how they want to dress and where they are going.
KN: What were the key considerations that you had in mind when conceiving 5 Carlos Place?
JC: We think that physical retail is now about an experience: how it makes you feel. It needs to be surprising and inclusive and personal. Customers are looking to connect and discover something if they take the time to come into your physical space, so it needs to engage them and be meaningful. 5 Carlos Place will not be a traditional retail space — nothing is fixed — it will constantly evolve and change to reflect each designers’ installations or the specific event. The service will also revolve around customer choice where you can shop directly through your mobile as technology in the space will link you directly to the product onsite to add to basket or your wish list. You can also book a bespoke private shopping appointment in one of the four suites with our team of stylists. Or you can have an edit delivered to you at 5 Carlos Place using our 90-minute service to try [on] for a last-minute event that evening.
KN: What do each of the five levels have to offer clients?
JC: 5 Carlos Place comprises of two floors (ground and first) of retail space including a courtyard garden, two floors of private shopping suites and an attic featuring an open kitchen with chef’s table, and a broadcasting hub, which will amplify events globally.
KN: How are the designer offerings at 5 Carlos Place curated and how often will these pieces be on rotation?
JC: The merchandising at 5 Carlos Place will revolve every two weeks and showcase our fashion point of view — with a focus on collaborations and newness. We launched with an exclusive collaboration with Prada, and then flipped into an installation on the ground floor featuring our Marine Serre capsule collection and the first floor showcasing The Innovators. The Innovators has become one of our defining initiatives as a supporter and incubator of design talent. Designers, chosen as part of the seasonal collective, highlight innovation in design and celebrate a new approach to fashion. Brands featured as part of The Innovators at 5 Carlos Place include Germanier, Noki, Ingy Stockholm and Petersonstoop and all four designers have based their designs on sustainably sourced materials. We will also have collaborations with Grace Wales Bonner, Hillier Bartley and a two-week fine jewellery showcase featuring Lynn Ban, Ana Khouri, Alan Crocetti and Fernando Jorge.
KN: What does 5 Carlos Places have to offer to the contemporary consumer?
JC: I think now more than ever, our customer wants everything in their life to feel considered. They want to be educated about new designers, about the provenance of the clothes they buy and understand the story behind the brand. I don’t think people want or have the time to live in a compartmentalised way so it makes total sense to connect all areas and have original conversations. We want 5 Carlos Place to feel like you are being invited to the ultimate collectors’ house where we can host and entertain you and create memorable experiences.
KN: The store is also intended as the host of installations and art collaborations, is this MatchesFashion’s answer to the need for a new retail model?
JC: I think you have to listen to the customer and we spend a huge amount of time focused on understanding our customers’s lifestyle and interests whether its art, photography, wellness, floristry or food. Creating an event programme that reflects the cultural calendar feels relevant and personal. The broadcasting extends this relationship with our customer too. In a world where storytelling is fast becoming the most popular way to consume content, broadcasting live and nearly live content feels like the freshest way to deliver an authentic brand experience to your audience. We are launching a podcast series because audio feels like an especially exciting medium right now.
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