Secret Shopper: Mango's new Mediterranean retail concept on Oxford Street
Mango has had a good pandemic. Sales in the last financial year were up 21.3% to £1.8 billion and it has been investing heavily in both its digital and physical retail offering at a time when some others on the high street have been pulling back. Last year it closed its long-standing store on London’s Regent Street and opened a new, three-storey retail concept in a more advantageous position on Oxford Street.
The store offers Mango’s full collection of menswear, womenswear and childrenswear (note to Mango, please put childrenswear in more of your stores, it really is rather good), as well as a dedicated click and collect point for online orders (second note to Mango, please speed up your online delivery, it really is rather slow – at least it feels that way for this impatient shopper).
On a Tuesday afternoon in April, I ventured out to put the new concept through its paces, armed with a shopping list of a pair of cargo jeans, for me, and t-shirts and jogging trousers for my 10-year-old daughter. Here’s how I got on.
Well, it doesn’t really get much better than this. Exit Oxford Street tube and there it is, opposite what used to be “Big Topshop”. Now that the former Topshop site is to be converted into an Ikea, maybe the hundreds of thousands of youngsters who used to pour out of the tube station and into Topshop will file into Mango instead. No, it doesn’t have the magic of that Topshop store, but it does have a lot to offer for shoppers of all ages.
Near neighbours also include H&M, JD Sports, the newly revamped Next complete with new Gap concession (we Secret Shopped that too, find out what we thought here), River Island and Sports Direct among others. So, it’s in good company in what used the be the unfashionable end of Oxford Street and which is fast turning into the most interesting end.
The Windows and entrance
Large and bright, one window is given over to this season’s super-colourful fashions, others are more minimalist. One contains just a single pair of shoes and some arty fixtures and fittings, however it’s a nice-looking display and it affords passers-by a good, clear view into what is a very attractive ground floor. A further window is devoted to Mango’s new menswear collaboration with Antoine Griezmann. I must admit, even though we recently wrote about this, I’d completely forgotten who he is (he’s a talented French professional footballer who plays for Atlético de Madrid apparently), but I’m not target market and maybe to those who are, he’s instantly recognisable. Imagery is nice, though, even if you don’t know him.
The entrance itself is large and inviting and somehow you could just drift in without even intending to (and like me, end up spending more money than you intended to, without buying any of the things you intended to).
The Store Fit & Displays
First impressions are “so much colour!” and “so tidy!”. The latter is a particularly big tick for me because I have been known to spend more time tidying up in Mango's rival Zara than I have buying things. It’s far more relaxing being able to just enjoy thumbing through the product without feeling the need to do a bit of folding and to neatly space the hangers. (What can I say? I was a shop girl back in the day – this sort of training stays with you).
On the subject of displays, the store’s neutral shop fit looks expensive and timeless (it is the Spanish retailer's new Mediterranea-inspired store design) with lovely stone floors and a wonderful stone feature wall on the staircase that wouldn’t look out of place in a posh hotel.
This sedate and relaxing interior provides the perfect backdrop for the colourful collections and allows them to sing. Product is thoughtfully merchandised into colour stories, with well-dressed mannequins providing useful outfit inspiration.
The Service and Fitting Rooms
On the ground floor I decide to search for a pair of cargo jeans that I’ve seen on a number of influencers on social media. Cargo pants are back and as someone who wore them first time round my feelings are mixed on this, but Mango’s take could look sufficiently age appropriate if styled correctly, so I decide I’m going to try them.
I find them easily enough (all sizes in both washes are on display, which is great) and head to the fitting rooms at the back of the ground floor.
I’d like to tell you what the fitting rooms were like but when I got there, there was a queue at least 10-women deep and there are only so many things am prepared to go through in the name of research. Standing in a queue for who knows how long isn’t one of them. So I just put the jeans back (neatly and exactly where I found them, obviously). I doubt I would have bought them anyway as contrarian that I am, I tend not to buy things I see on lots of influencers and was really just using them as a ruse to try out the store. Anyway, am sure the fitting rooms are very nice as the rest of the store is.
I am seriously in the market for childrenswear, though, so I head downstairs, which is clearly signposted. I take the stairs and admire the stone feature wall but there’s also a nice big lift for customers with prams, wheelchairs or mobility issues. I see someone easily push a double pram into the lift, which was another big tick for me. If stores aren’t going to put kidswear on the ground floor (and I can understand why they wouldn’t), then it needs to be easily accessible.
When I get downstairs half of the floor is given over to womenswear and more of the lovely bright colours that I saw upstairs and, lo, what is this? A very attractive-looking set of fitting rooms – with no queue! Why aren’t they sending people down here? I ponder whether to go and get the jeans and try them here, but it feels like too much effort. I suspect the reason people aren’t being sent down is that there are very few staff on the shop floor and they are simply not there to tell people about the additional fitting rooms.
I spot three staff downstairs, one on the till and two in the fitting rooms. They are all working away, either serving on the till or rehanging items that have been tried on and putting them back on the sales floor but it feels like it might be an idea to have someone positioned on the floor to greet customers and offer help, because when I did need help, there was no one around. Yes, I could have gone to the fitting rooms and asked someone to come out and help me but as a customer, am not sure I should have to.
The Product Range
I’m a big fan of Mango. It’s not as bleeding-edge fashion forward as Zara but I like it for that. That’s not to say it doesn’t have the latest trends, it does, but they are executed in a much more accessible way. I also love it that the company has recently expanded its size architecture by absorbing its former plus size line into its main line meaning more choice for women of all sizes.
As I said, Mango has gone big on colour this season and, even though I'm fairly print-sceptic as a fashion shopper, I particularly loved the seventies prints and co-ord sets. Also great was the 90s denim (and I spied what looked like a new take on the iconic 90s shoe of the decade, the Patrick Cox Wannabe loafer, which sparked a moment of warm nostalgia), and a lovely gingham story which extended to accessories. The store is well merchandised and it’s easy to see how you can build outfits.
The kidswear is just great. I love it. The trends are all there in an age-appropriate way but there are is a good selection of basics for girls and boys. I am also a big fan of Zara kidswear but sometimes find there’s almost too much focus on trend and not enough on the underpinning basics. Mango gets the balance right.
Downside in this store was that my daughter is 10 and apparently lots of other parents of 10 year old girls had been in and cleared all the stock before me. I found a nice display of striped T-shirts in a lovely bright colours. Not one was available in age 10. I find the jogging bottoms I had specifically gone in for – they are a lovely slim cut made from great fabric and I already had them in khaki and wanted a navy pair. Again, no age 10. How about that sunflower sweatshirt? No age 10. A gingham blouse? No age 10. A striped trouser co-ord set that was divine. Hurray! Age 10 in the trouser, I sling them over my arm, go through the tops. No age 10. I put the trousers back.
It’s here that I could have done with some help but there was no one around, apart from me and the women with the double pram who was probably having more luck on the size front than me.
Somehow though, I managed to spend £125.94. Why? Because what they did have in age 10 (none of which I came in for) was so lovely, I just had to have it (imagine what I would have spent if they also had what I wanted?). I buy a striped shorts and blouse co-ord set (I can’t get enough co-ord sets at the moment; third note to Mango, please do more co-ord sets for women as well!), a beautiful striped summer dress with cut outs at the waist, lilac cat-eye sunglasses, a pink leopard print sweat, a slightly cropped t-shirt with a cute sequin applique and a pair of jogging trousers in the size up just in case my daughter has a growth spurt in the next couple of days. (My daughter loved all of it and literally gave the co-ord set and sunglasses a round of applause when I got them out of the bag. The jogging trousers were a bit big, but they’ll keep).
The service at the till was friendly and I was delighted to discover that the loyalty points you can rack up on its e-commerce site for cash off future purchases are also valid in-store. I decide however to bank the points and save them for another time. Because, despite the lack of age 10 size clothes when I visit, I will most certainly be back in the near future to spend more than I ever intended to on things I didn’t intend to buy.
In Conclusion/The Security Process
A bonus section for this particular edition of Secret Shopper... I unexpectedly got to experience what it’s like when you set the store’s alarms off and risk being apprehended for shoplifting.
On the way out, I am leaving at the same time as another customer and the alarms sound. She keeps walking with confidence. I stop dead. If she was a thief, she was calm and brazen. But it turns out she wasn’t, as the problem was me.
I hold out my bag to the security guard, who, to his credit doesn’t immediately assume I am a calm and brazen thief. He swings the bag back through the door and the alarm sounds again. He has a rummage inside the bag, finds the sunglasses, removes a small security tag, swings the bag through the door. The alarm sounds again.
He’s starting to get suspicious now but is still smiling. “Have you got your receipt?” he asks. “It’s in there somewhere,” I say with confidence. I had specifically asked for a printed receipt and am glad I did now, but am beginning to think the store assistant didn’t put it in the bag as he can’t find it. “What I can tell you, though,” I venture by way of vouching for my own innocence, “is this all cost me £125.94 and I didn’t intend to buy any of it.”
He laughs, finds the garment with the security tag still attached and asks if I wouldn’t mind going back downstairs to have it removed. A small part of me was hoping to be apprehended as it would have been interesting to share with our readers what the experience for suspected shoplifters was like. But, as I contemplate the nice stone feature wall again on the way back down the stairs, I ask myself what sort of person wouldn’t mind being wrongly apprehended for shoplifting in the name of research but won’t spend five minutes queuing for a fitting room. A very impatient but extremely curious one, that’s who.
Anyway, the assistant at the till looks horrified that she missed a tag and insists on re-checking everything else in the bag and as she does so, the receipt falls out, so it was there all along.
I make my way back up the stairs and past the stone feature wall yet again, wave my receipt at the security guard. “Found it. It was indeed £125.94!” He laughs and waves. He’s a thoroughly nice chap. And this is a thoroughly nice store.
Given it’s just a stone’s throw from TheIndustry.fashion offices, I will probably make a point of coming here in future to buy my childrenswear instead of automatically going online. And what that basically means is this store is a great success. Despite some availability issues and the possibility of being wrongly apprehended for shoplifting, it was still a more efficient, more pleasant, more human and more inspirational experience than shopping online.
I will be back. After all, my daughter will be 11 in the autumn (and they had lots of things in age 11!) and I have those loyalty points to redeem.