“Redefining the presentation of fast fashion”
After decades of rapid expansion, H&M has over 4,800 stores worldwide making it the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer after the Zara parent company Inditex. But recently the brand’s fast fashion model has faltered with sluggish sales and unsold stock.
With bricks and mortar stores being neglected as the brand focused on building on-line sales and developing eight new, mostly higher-end brands, such as COS and ARKET, customers started to look for destination stores with more attractive layouts, and a diverse offer of attractions over simple presentation of product.
A move to change this is underway. Newly-opened doors have showcased the brand’s sustainability goals, and introduced new facets to a shopping experience repositioning their bricks and mortar stores as destination spaces. We visited the latest of these in Hammersmith to see what has changed for the brand.
“An open courtyard filled with curated moments”
The new store is more than just another branch, with the location including a number of new features that are part of the overarching focus on increasing sales at its physical stores. Not only this, but the space has a more considered and premium aesthetic to standard stores with flagstone flooring, natural timber, and live trees creating a courtyard feel.
There are digital screens with images of customers in recent purchases shared via the #HMxME hashtag. Soft- technology inclusion is also seen in self checkouts and online ordering from in-store to further link on and off-line for seamless shopping.
The sustainability goals of the brand are reiterated through the environment, showcasing the move to facilitating a ‘full circle’ fashion model.
In any of the existing H&M stores around the world it is clear what to expect: racks crammed with apparel in a stark and yet sometimes cluttered environment.
Standard store design is a palette of white on white, with bold graphic treatments- a simple backdrop to a multitude of product.
The Hammersmith store is a departure from this standard retail identity. Introduced here are tactile materials, considered display tools and product given breathing space. The whole feels more akin to recent high profile openings in Barcelona and Melbourne, and a move visually towards other higher price point H&M estate brands such as &Other Stories. A clear influence of the recent ‘relaxed bazaar’ aesthetic trend most recently seen at The Shop at Bluebird in Covent Garden can also be identified.
Display Methods – Thoughtful display
Product is given space to breathe, with less density than a typical store, and smaller range of selected clothes, displayed on airy shelves and tables in colour-coordinated sections.
H&M planned the ranges with local customers in mind, marking a shift from offering standardised ranges in all doors.
Interactive moments – Creating connection naturally
At many points in the store, tactile investigation of product is encouraged. From tester tables and sink for beauty ranges, to an in-store florist, to an embroidery and personalisation station customers are encouraged to get to know the products and make them their own at their own pace.
Online shopping and self-checkout are also facilitated in-store to complete the personal and convenience-lead omni-channel experience.
Messaging tools – Unobtrusive imagery
Messaging tools are simple, with natural card, and matte print finishes throughout. Imagery in store is small, and curated with relevant product to offer a look-book style presentation.
Staff picks are clearly identified with staff member name signed to each selection increasing the feeling of a thoughtful edit.
Digital content is presented sparingly, and screens are framed to look like prints.
‘Take Care’ initiative brought to the fore
H&M is aiming to use only recycled or sustainable materials by 2030, and it is keen to enlist customers in its efforts for a more responsible kind of fashion. To this end, they have launched project ‘Take Care’, an initiative who’s ideals can be seen in the Hammersmith store.
The project features in-store seamstresses, the sale of garment-care products and online advice. ‘Take Care’ aims to encourage customers to extend the life of their clothes, giving them the means to take better care of their garments.
Customers are encouraged to bring unwanted garments and textiles, to be recycled, re-worn or reused.
The Repair and Remake section encourages customers to keep garments for longer by mending H&M clothes without charge for H&M Club members.
The service station also offers embroidery personalisation with customers able to customise suitable garments to extend lifecycle.
Dwell Time offer
One facet of the modern shopping experience missing from Hammersmith is a dedicated dwell area. H&M already has an in-store café concept- Pleats, the first UK site having opened within the Westfield store in 2018. Designed to provide a space where shoppers can unwind, the concept was first unveiled in Stockholm last year, and the latest space is one of four globally. In addition to this, H&M group brand Arket, includes a vegetarian and vegan café in each of its six UK shops.
Introducing this offer to the portfolio of services at Hammersmith would have made the space feel comparable to other high profile shopping destinations.
It is unclear whether H&M is planning to open more cafés in UK sites, but the brand has been introducing several changes to increase relevance in the ever changing and demanding retail sector.
“More than ‘just another branch’, this store brings a thoughtful, involving, and modern retail experience to London.”
Nowadays, customers thrive in an environment different from traditional retail. H&M group has been introducing several changes lately to remain relevant in the ever-changing retail world and many of these are seen in the Hammersmith store.
It is an appealing store visually, with a feeling of careful curation through thoughtful display, and a palette of tactile materials that is usually seen at a much higher price point. A reduction in stock density, even in reduced price areas, does not seem to affect the generation of sales, with product being more carefully selected with knowledge of locality preferences to drive a considered range.