Our average Wednesday often includes an impromptu trip down to London’s Oxford Street, but this weeks’ visit had a special purpose – to visit retail expert Mary Portas’ new concession. Catering to the more mature, or as Mary likes to put it, the ‘grown-up’ woman, Mary for House of Fraser is a cool, quirky and age appropriate fashion destination for those past their twenties. In order to review the concession we thought it only fair to get the opinion of someone within Mary’s target market. Someone a little bit older with a sense of style and a appreciation for quality, so we took along LDNfashion’s resident Mother to take a look too.
Walking into House of Fraser it was hard to miss the orange and purple signs leading you up to the third floor where Mary’s ‘Pret a Portas’ concession sits. It was even more apparent when we pressed the lift button and found ourselves stepping into ‘Mary’s lift’ – a bright orange space complete with floor length tangerine curtains, making us feel more like we were about to enter a swanky wine bar than a clothes shop. When the doors parted on floor three we knew instantly we had arrived at the right place.
Greeted by an army of Mary look-a-like mannequins, complete with orange bob cut wigs, the shop floor was buzzing with women, camera crews and the big lady herself. An unexpected surprise, even more so as she was helping serve behind the till over the busy lunchtime period.
Taking a look around the shopping space, which is constructed from scaffolding, hanging lights, smooth concrete floor and graffittied walls, the sheer size of the place was enough to keep us busy, with the range extending beyond clothes into homeware and cosmetics. Each item had been given a tailored Mary touch, from the candles named after her childhood memories to hand-picked artists who’s custom designs feature on the crockery, showing the 49-year-olds dedication to providing something different to the norm.
The main attraction however was the clothing, with the suspended scaffolding racks adorned with garments for Mary’s own label, as well as a mixture of chic brands such as Whistles, Biba and Pied a Terre. How’s that for choice? LDNfashion.com’s Mother was also impressed by the selection, but more so the quality. With the average piece around the £100 mark, Mother was quick to point out the longevity and wearability of the pieces, reflecting the part of Mary’s fashion philosophy that reads “don’t buy crap”.
Also worth noting are the several collaborations between Mary and established brands. Mary & Clarks, Mary & Radley, Mary & Charnos – all names that already appeal to the target market and will increase the customers’ faith in the product. Quality is certainly not and issue here.
The best part about the concession, however, was the clever added extra bits, such at the ‘coming soon’ rack, which displays samples of items soon to be added to collection, so customers can add them to their mental shopping list. One-off samples of soon to be stocked shoes are also placed amongst the display for the footwear addicts to get their pre-season fix.
So overall, the verdict of LDNfashion and it’s all-shopped-out Mother is this: Mary Portas’ concession is age-appropriate and exciting. As one of the Pret a Portas team pointed out, the concession is not about following fashion too closely, just giving trends a little nod. That’s what makes it interesting and individual – the perfect combination for the grown-up woman.
Here’s the pictures from our visit (and a picture of Mary and Mother!)