Brands are ripping up the rule book for luxury retail in London, to entice a new breed of consumer that is looking beyond simply exclusivity to individuality, authenticity and an all-round experience that cannot be obtained anywhere else.
The UK capital remains a key destination for both domestic and international luxury players but a wave of consolidation in the industry, as well as a widening of the sector to include bridge brands and streetwear labels through covetable collaborations, is shaking up the traditional luxury map.
Mayfair and Knightsbridge remain key location for luxury retailers but new neighbourhoods are also emerging as more accessible, creative luxury hubs with maximum impact, including Soho and Shoreditch.
Over the past decade, many luxury players have taken stores in low footfall Mayfair locations with the belief that their consumer would find them. Bridge streets to the main arteries have seen considerable rental growth as demand exceeded supply. But this is now starting to change with many occupiers seeking to be closer, or back on main thoroughfares.
On Bond Street, the main trend has been demand for locations north of Bruton Street and a lengthening of the prime pitch with the influx of watch brands and major fashion brands. Like Regent Street, the highest rental growth is happening in locations that were previously less sought after.
New Bond Street has seen some of the most significant activity recently, with the likes of Azzedine Alaïa, Chloe, Roger Vivier and Panerai over the last 18 months and relocations onto the street including Stella McCartney, Richard Mille, Hublot and an upsize for Alexander McQueen.
Conduit Street and Bruton Street remain strong, while outposts such as Brompton and The Village at Westfield London remain popular. Meanwhile Soho is becoming something of an offbeat but organic and authentic luxury location, occupied by brands including Rag & Bone, Byredo and Fiorucci.
Luxury brands have also been slower to embrace ecommerce but are now racing to catch up with other areas of the industry; a trend which will shape property portfolios in years to come. While some brands are shrinking their store estates, others like MatchesFashion and Browns are focusing on large flagships that can define the epitome of luxury through a compelling in-store experience that complements a digital presence.
MatchesFashion is poised to open a six-storey townhouse residence at 5 Carlos Place in Mayfair this summer, combining retail with its “In Residence” events offering up installations, fashion shows and live streamed talks.
Browns, meanwhile, surprised the industry by opening its second location in east London at the end of last year, after almost half a century in west London. The new space on Club Row, just off Redchurch Street, uses innovative technology from its parent company Farfetch including the ability to see recommendations and sync a digital wishlist to the physical store, as well as offering an art gallery, café and its take on the pop-up shop model.
The new Blue Mountain School, from the founders of Cult east London store Hostem, on Redchurch Street offers one of the music, design and art most innovative approaches to luxury retail experience in a silver, six-storey townhouse. The space, which will evolve over time, offers fashion, food, music, design and art in a space that refuses to be categorised in any one discipline.
Luxury retailers are at the sharp end of experience retail and they will continue to seek incredible retail spaces in which to sell their goods, ensuring continued strong demand for quality locations. At Nash Bond, we expect that prime streets will see continued change as rental growth prices some occupiers out and brings more successful occupiers with better financial backing into play. An increase in online sales will further push occupiers to take fewer, larger stores and we will see the rise of brands taking stores in locations that aren’t synonymous with luxury brands, particularly when they can secure an interesting building or space.