Brown Thomas will be latest store to go minimalist

Marni at selfridges

The Marni area in sister company Selfridges (by Sybarite Architects) has a minimalist look like that planned at Brown Thomas

Does it drive you mad when stores care so much about their look on the shop floor that they don’t put all available sizes out? Me too. In which case, maybe Dublin’s Brown Thomas flagship isn’t the place to go. Or is it?

The company, which is owned by the same super-rich family that controls Selfridges, has been spending millions revamping its Dublin flagship and its latest mega-investment is in the women’s contemporary fashion floor.

In order to increase ‘dwell time’, it’s focusing on experience as much as trying to sell stuff. That means a new restaurant for mid-shopping-session relaxation, linking up more with its website (you can send your online wishlist to your personal shopper) and a minimalist look that means “one garment minimal display”, fashion director Shelly Corkery told the Irish Independent.

“We won’t go across sizes on the floor, we will go across garments so you will see it in different colours but you won’t have sizes 10, 12, 14 out,” she said.

So does that mean waiting forever while the sales associate runs down to the stock room to pick up your size 10, 12 or 14 (as this is designer fashion, we assume there won’t be many even larger sizes)? Not at all. The company is moving stock room space up to the second floor to compensate.

It still means you’ll have to ask for your size (assuming you don’t automatically decide that if it’s not out, they haven’t got it), but it shouldn’t take that long.

I’m still not sure how I feel about that. I can see the point but I don’t actually want to increase me dwell time. For me, the best shopping trip is a quick-in, quick-out one.

But I might be alone on that and this is a trend we’ve been seeing more frequently in high-end stores in recent years. Limiting the product on display encourages more interaction with sales staff and makes the whole sale process more about real customer service than just picking something up, trying it on and paying for it ever can.

The problem, of course, comes when such stores are SO minimalist, SO quiet and so-very-intimidating that the customer turns round and exits rather than having to interact with anyone.

How it works at Brown Thomas we’ll have to wait and see. It really is all about just how good the retailer’s sales staff are. But on that note, I must give a special mention to Miu Miu – the staff in the brand’s own stores and in the Selfridges concession are always friendly, don’t drop you as soon as someone who looks richer walks in and are always sympathetic when you own up to not being able to afford anything they’re selling!

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