We have written about Matalan before, how we admire its strategic direction against strong competition from other value fashion retailers. What was missing was a presence in City centres favouring out of town retail parks in the past.
Well that missing link is being addressed with store openings in Liverpool and Cardiff city centres and on Thursday, the opening of its flagship store on Oxford Street, London. In close proximity is Primark, H&M, Zara, all well established on High Streets so opening on the capital’s busiest street is a bold move.
Range, price, fashionability, stock density are all there in spades at Matalan but it is not the first retailer you think of for any of them. Because they lack that city centre presence, the customer does not have Matalan top of mind, and historically low key advertising campaigns do little to change that. However, new collaborations like the exclusive beachwear range from Julien Macdonald, and the addition of brands like Falmer, plus further in city openings planned can start to make an impression.
A visit to the Oxford Street store on opening day reinforced our belief that the strategy is spot on. The store was laden with all the latest store fixtures and visual merchandising highlights that pleasantly interrupted the shopper’s journey screaming high fashion and excellent prices. It is not a large store by Oxford Street flagship standards but manages to remain airy despite holding an impressive stock density.
However conspicuous by its absence was a home department or any menswear. Leaving homewear out of the mix can be forgiven with space at such a high premium but neglecting menswear is a massive omission given the current brand message of “Made for modern families”. Dad’s, you need to shop elsewhere.
Matalan know they have made a mistake in this. Space will be found from somewhere, according to the management team seen walking the store with furrowed brows. We might suggest the first floor which was over-ranged with Disney merchandised clothing which although providing a premium offer, was over-spaced and confused what is an already strong kidswear range.
Teething problems aside, a city centre Matalan is an exciting addition to the competitive set and gives Matalan an edge over supermarket clothing ranges which cannot access that shopping occasion. Calling the Oxford Street store a flagship is an overstatement but as a model for further City centre rollouts, it has the right mix of visual interest, stock density and high fashion to cater for families on budgets.