LONDON — Sophia Webster wants to make a bold retail statement — and strengthen the ties with her customers — with her new London store opening at the crossroads of Chelsea, Knightsbridge and South Kensington.
Webster said her aim is to create a true “online/off-line” experience and continue the intimate conversation the brand has been having with its customers, via its existing Mount Street boutique, e-commerce site and widely followed Instagram account, which now has more than one million followers.
This is the accessories brand’s second retail location in London, after it opened on Mount Street in 2016. The space, located in Brompton Cross, is bigger, spanning 1,500 square feet across two floors — and has a more grown-up, sophisticated air. It offers features such as a private shopping space dedicated to bridal appointments and a mini beauty salon for manicures, pedicures and blow dries.
“We found that 50 percent of the sales on Mount Street were done online even though the customers were in store. People don’t want to take the shoes away with them or they come to try on the shoes for fit, but then go on to purchase online,” said Webster. “We have 10,000 people a day coming onto our web site, and while I don’t know how many people we get through the door, I think both channels are equally important and need to work in synergy.”
She added that physical spaces are key to the brand’s strategy, as they provide an opportunity to have more control in the selection of styles offered to the customers and receive more personal feedback that cannot be collected through online data.
“It’s just really valuable to be able to get those conversations with the customers that you don’t get online. By speaking to the women who are buying the shoes and seeing how they fit in them or the details they are drawn to, it can really influence the way you design or expand the collection. Our shoes are a lot more comfortable than they initially were because of this type of feedback,” she added.
The store is also designed to reflect Webster’s colorful aesthetic and is filled with Instagram-friendly photo ops, ranging from a pair of neon butterfly wings near the entrance to a flamingo-shaped chandelier, pink-hued marble walls and pastel velvet furniture galore, which is sure to generate buzz on social media.
“We have a lot of people coming and taking pictures with the neon wings and we created the #SWHighFlyer around it to make it more shareable,” said Webster, who oversaw the store’s design process alongside her husband and the company’s chief executive officer, Bobby Stockley.
Having taken all the lessons from the company’s first opening, Webster added that it was important for the brand to have a bigger home and offer a real destination.
“We want to be able to invite our customers for different events and we also found that a lot of bridal parties would come to the store and make a day of trying the shoes,” said Webster, explaining why she decided to create a concept space on the store’s lower ground floor, dedicated to customer events, bridal appointments and beauty services.
It also creates space for experimentation for the designer: “I’m really enjoying exploring different product categories, and just testing what I like to work on. With the space downstairs, we’ll definitely be looking to explore the beauty world a bit more, maybe through different partnerships,” she added.
Location was another priority. The store’s new swanky Chelsea neighborhood is having a moment of its own of late with an array of restaurant and boutique openings in the works.
“The area attracts a mix of locals and tourists and there are so many exciting openings coming up, a huge Daylesford Organic restaurant will open next door soon. That’s what really appealed to us,” said Webster. “Here, we hope we’ll have a lot more customers that maybe aren’t aware of the brand, but they’re passing by or customers that we didn’t previously have.”