Forever 21 hits London

Rosie Baker is Marketing Week’s specialist on sustainability and retail.

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Today (27 July) is the opening day for Forever 21’s first London store. Having missed the pre-launch press event at the new Oxford Street location last week thanks to a particularly bad bout of summer flu, nothing was going to make me miss the opening day.

So on my lunchtime dash down the length of Oxford Street to the Forever 21 store, I passed pairs of roller booted Forever 21 ambassadors handing out flyers offering a 10% discount if you spend more that £35 on the opening day as well as the tempting offer of a free gift if you redeem the voucher between 3pm and 5pm today.

Spread over three floors the store itself looks very impressive. It’s nicely lit, and well merchandised and has enough in store signage to point out the price points and what’s on offer without creating a barrage of information.

Thanks to the sheer volume of opening day traffic and a quirk of the building there’s a bit of a bottleneck on the ground floor where shoppers have to pass through a tiny corridor to reach the back of the store, but this will ease off after day one.

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The queues obviously looked horrendous but the staff were very polite and confident in dealing with the pressure and calming any potentially frustrated customers; apologising to waiting shoppers and taking steps to speed up the process. It was only lunchtime but all the staff, of which there seemed to be hundreds, at least looked like they were genuinely excited about the first day of trading.

The staff I spoke to were enthused and felt that they had had plenty of support and training from the US arm of the business and their counterparts at the already open at the Birmingham store.

I was impressed by the range and the prices and so my short investigative sojourn ended at the till, before joining the ranks of shoppers on oxford Street armed with a  neon pink Forever 21 bag.

I wrote a lot about Forever 21 when it announced it was bringing its US flavoured fast fashions to the UK and have waited a long time to see the realisation of the brand on my doorstep after falling in love with it (and its products) when I spent time in the US.

Although it opened its first store in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre, today marked the retailer’s first steps in London. Another London store is planned for the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford.

I can see Forever 21 very quickly rising through the ranks of high street fashion chains in the UK and giving Topshop, H&M and New Look a run for their money.

New Look in particular, which has recently posted less than encouraging sales figures, should be wary of Forever 21 snapping at its heels and bringing a fresh brand to the UK high street.

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