The announcement of a new generation Abercrombie & Fitch Harbour City store signifies an acceleration of the troubled US apparel brand’s restoration program.
Until now, the brand’s post-’mausoleum fitout’ era format has only been seen in the US – a test outlet in Columbus, Ohio. Last week the company announced six more new look stores would open by Christmas – and the first outside the US, in Hong Kong.
As Inside Retail Hong Kong reported last week, the retailer has signed an agreement with Wharf Holdings to open a 6800 sqft store in Wharf’s flagship property, Harbour City. Slated to open in December, it will follow stores in Michigan, Georgia, Virginia, Arizona and California.
So what can shoppers expect? In short, an entirely different retail experience to the heavily-scented, dark flagship which recently closed on Pedder Street, Central.
“The updated store layout provides the customer with a new vision of the A&F brand and is designed to be an inviting space that facilitates brand engagement and encourages product trial,” the company explained in a statement issued in the US.
A&F says the Ohio store, which opened in February, is demonstrating “improved customer engagement and productivity on a smaller footprint”.
“The modernised space was imagined with the best customer experience in mind, encouraging the discovery of A&F’s new collections and brand positioning. Looking to provide a unique and personal shopping experience, the layout includes accommodating features such as innovative fitting rooms, and omni-channel capabilities.”
Each fitting room has thoughtful amenities designed to enhance the customer’s mood, including separate controls for light and music, as well as a phone charging dock. Select fitting rooms comprise of two individual capsules within a larger, private suite, allowing for sharing new looks with a friend or family member, while also enjoying privacy.
“With a focus on customer engagement and service, associates will be on hand to help customers place and pick up online orders in store,” the statement continues. “Furthermore, cash wraps will be placed throughout the space, enabling a quicker and more accessible checkout experience.” That’s a sharp contrast to the hide-and-go-seek nature of the single checkouts hidden in the back of the old model flagship stores.
A&F CEO Fran Horowitz described Harbour City as “a world-renowned mall” and believes it will be a premier location for the updated Abercrombie & Fitch experience.
“While we continue to invest in our omnichannel capabilities, enabling our customers to engage with us whenever, wherever and however they choose, our stores remain an important gateway to our brands,” she said.
“In this new space, we expect to deliver greater productivity on a significantly smaller footprint than our previous Hong Kong store. We are looking forward to bringing our new store experience to existing and new customers in Hong Kong.”
Aside from the disappearance of black from the store design, the most notable aspect of the new concept store is that stock will be visible from outside the store.
The new design features a soft-brown hue, strong lighting and subtle fixtures. The concept store was designed by MJ Sagan Architecture, which was also involved in creating the company’s New Albany headquarters.
An A&F statement says the prototype’s look and feel “is in line with the brand’s new evolution”.
The Ohio boutique is smaller than the new Hong Kong store at 4860 sqft (451 sqm).
“The new A&F store design illustrates a strong brand, with a rich history that is evolving and moving forward. A cohesive material palette, an elevated collection and residential-scale elements enhance the personal, more intimate aspect of the A&F shopping experience,” says architect MJ Sagan.
The transparent storefront features a metal sculpture of an A&F logo first used in the early 1900s. Inside, there are two shops-in-shops: a fragrance “apothecary” and an area for seasonal capsule collections. There is also a dedicated denim room.
The interior features a cohesive palette of modern, tactile materials including cork, bronze, galvanised steel, concrete, “vegan leather,” wood and marble that act as a neutral but complementary background to the collections.
Mannequins for both genders stand on a concrete platform running from the storefront through the middle of the store, showcasing key trends and ideas for the current season. Throughout the store, the collections are merchandised to inspire the customer and showcase how pieces can be mixed together.
A&F and Abercrombie Kids brand president Stacia Andersen said at the time of the Ohio store’s launch that she hopes customers old and new will “rediscover what is at the core of the American Heritage brand: timeless, high-quality clothing you want to live in”.