September 2019

Drapers – Grace Whelan 3/9/19

 

Ahead of the opening of activewear etailer Fashercise’s first UK store, Drapers sits down with founder and managing director Alexandra Vanthournout to find out more about its bricks-and-mortar ambitions.

Located at 46 Monmouth Street in London’s Seven Dials, the 650 sq ft store will open to the public on 5 September. (Nash Bond acted for Shaftesbury)

Fashercise founder and managing director Alexandra Vanthournout

Why is now the right time for Fashercise to open its first store?

Last year, we had a number of successful pop-ups and it really drove home the idea that our customers wanted a physical space to discover our brands [which include Adidas by Stella McCartney, LNDR, Varley and ARKK Copenhagen], to try on and get advice on fit and style. As the business neared its 5th birthday since launching online, I felt like the ecommerce platform was finally at a stable and consistent enough point where we could expand into a permanent space. Additionally, our customer base is largely based in London as well as all around Europe, and with the uncertainties around Brexit, I felt as though it made more sense to really focus on our core clientele in the UK until we know how this will affect our international business online in the next few months and years.

How will the new store drive growth for Fashercise?

As well as offering a more personalised shopping experience for our existing clientele, being based in Seven Dials, in the heart of London’s West End, will give us a visibility we’ve not experienced previously and attract a new customer who may not have heard of us before. I hope it will help us build our community even further through in-store events and offering our customers an experience which they can’t have online – whether that be one-on-one styling sessions, in-store exclusives or even an opportunity to meet with the designers. More than anything, it will allow us to really introduce our brands – many of which are still fairly unknown to the UK market – to a new audience.

As an online retailer, how are you blending this into a multichannel offer?

My vision has always been to try and blur the lines between the online and offline worlds, and now with a permanent space, I am finally able to take that to the next level. Although the store offers a carefully curated edit of our online offering, we do have our entire stock on the premises, meaning we can very easily offer a click-and-collect service for our online customers. The store will feature a touchscreen through which our store customers can browse the website and request items not available on the shop floor. It’ll also allow for easy returns and we are working with our online payment provider Klarna to offer their ‘pay later’ services in-store as well, meaning the risk threshold is lowered even further.

What are some of the key design/operational features of the store?

I didn’t want it to look like a traditional sportswear store, featuring imagery of sweaty models, shouty buzzwords and aggressive colours. The shop is designed like a lifestyle boutique – light, welcoming and easy on the eye. Our fittings are white marble with a couple of concrete plinths to contrast them. The changing rooms are a soft pink with velvet and gold detailing. Our product is a luxury item, so it felt right to me to create this as a luxurious space, where people feel at ease to try items on. Fashercise is all about body positivity, with some of our brands sizing up to a 4XL, so in this space I hope to reach a customer who might traditionally feel intimidated or not catered for in other sportswear stores.

Is there further store expansion planned?

For the time being, I am looking to run the Seven Dials flagship store as our only physical space, with our online offering still remaining the larger focus. I think this will give us a lot of insight into our expansion options in the future, but it is too soon to tell in which direction that will go.