If you do anything that involves retail, design, advertising or just getting stuff sold, we must recommend that you pick up a copy of the April 09 issue of Monocle Magazine. This issue has a focus on retail with articles that highlight the state of the retail market and where in the world we can seek inspiration.
The opening piece of the retail section conveys similar thoughts that we’ve published in these pages – that at the end of the day, we’re not really that surprised by the retailers that are going under:
The problem with using a drop in GDP as a catch-all excuse for a sorry retail market is that it glosses over the simple fact that most businesses that have had to close completely, cut back or curb their ambitions have been heading this direction even when times were good.
Some who disappeared from our streets died of natural causes – old-age (simply losing the will to fight) or chronic illnesses (labour issues and multiple personalities). Others met more savage ends at the hands of ruthless intruders who attacked them in their own backyards.
More still succumbed to the painful private equity plague that sliced, shaved and chopped till there was nothing left on the bone and consumers failed to recognise the brand they rather liked until it fell victim to a business plan drawn up by a 26-year-old who had never even spent time on a shop-floor during his or her college years, let alone visited the country where said acquisition took place.
They follow up with a justified swipe at the British retailers who have collapsed:
Woolworths and its pick’n'mix counter is no more; society wedding list favourite General Trading Company and Whittard tea merchants are among those who have run into trouble. Who cares? It’s a fair question: many of the shops closing down on London’s high streets were well past their sell-by dates and will be missed by few.
But it’s not all criticism, the magazine has several articles on how to make improvements – and much of the inspiration comes from Japan. The Top 20 Retailers piece is a great read:
01 Demasié in Barcelona for beautifully packaged confectionery and great interiors.
02 Roden Gray in Vancouver for its rough interiors but very gentle staff.
03 Folk and Oliver Spencer in London for Made in Britain menswear and good service.
04 JR Leder in Berlin for bespoke men’s leather bags made at the back of the shop.
05 Monmouth Coffee Company in London for loving what they do and knowing their beans
06 Rough Trade East in London for its handwritten recommondations and outstanding vinyl and CD selection.
07 Truck Furniture in Osaka for when you want to re-engineer your life.
08 Ciclic in Barcelona for its recent renovation and overhaul of art titles, international DVDs and hard-to-source magazines.
09 Eslite in Taipei for every form of printed matter available 24 hours a day.
10 Isetan food hall in Tokyo for the breadth of choice, sensory overload and uniforms.
11 Odin in New York for its ever-surprising and eclectic mix of menswear for any season.
12 Frédéric Malle in Paris for its limited-edition perfumes and focused vision.
13 James Perse‘s Beverly Hills branch for its activewear range, laid back but attentive staff and indoor/outdoor interior.
14 Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm because the older we get the better we look in Josef Frank.
15 Hakusan in Tokyo for its perfectly designed ceramics and bijou, museum-like setting.
16 Johnny Farah in Beirut for comfortable house shoes and a handcrafted ethic.
17 Bi Rite in San Francisco. The type of business you’d be proud of if you had the idea to do a neighbourhood grocery store.
18 Pierre Hardy in Paris because their desert boots are best.
19 Lisn in Kyoto and Tokyo’s Aoyama for the best incense, smart staff and packaging.
20 Aspesi‘s Milan emporium for its airy rooms, cheeky merchandising and consistency.