Leeds-based formalwear brand Skopes has just opened a new concept flagship store at Westfield White City in its 70th anniversary year. It’s certainly raised a few eye brows, with the intention very much of making a statement. We take a look inside and talk to the brand’s head of retail, Mike Rich.
Last night saw the launch party and ribbon cutting at the new Skopes Westfield White City concept store, complete with jazz band, shoe shine man and drinks aplenty.
This is the 12th Skopes shop in the UK, but only the second at full price, the other being in Coventry, as the rest are in designer outlet centres across the country. This brand-new concept, in celebration of the brand’s 70th anniversary year – having been established in Leeds in 1948 – is the way forward for its retail strategy, complete with updated branding. It has a much more contemporary feel.
The Dalziel & Pow designed store features a chill out area at the back with an orange sofa and a bar area, designed so wedding parties can gather for a beer or coffee while trying on their chosen suits in the spacious changing rooms, which have three different light settings to set the mood.
“This is the future of the full-price stores,” says Skopes head of retail, Mike Rich, who’s been with the company for the past six years, having previously been at BMB. “One of the things we really pride ourselves on is service. A guy might be in with his partner to try on a suit, and she can wait in comfort and have a tea or coffee. Or a group of mates might be in to get kitted out, and they can have a free beer or cider in the process.”
Despite the on-going uncertainty surrounding House of Fraser, Skopes concessions in its stores up and down the country also remain an integral part of the business. “We’ve actually just doubled the size of our concession business in House of Fraser,” offers Rich.
“We’ve been their number one selling formalwear brand for the last few years, beating the likes of Boss and Ted Baker in terms volume and cash sales. We’ve also been amazed by the growth of online purchases of suits, which has had a massive input in us becoming their number one suit brand.”
The Westfield store launch has still, however, taken many by surprise. “One thing about this business is we see opportunities and we go for them,” comments Rich. “We think there’s an opportunity in the marketplace right now, which is why we’ve launched the new store in Westfield. Some may ask, why select the number one shopping centre in the country? Well, we wanted to make a statement. We’ve also already got our second new concept store in place for March 2019, in Meadowhall, Sheffield.”
What’s more, if the new concept stores work out well, a retail roll-out will be in the making, with Rich talking about a target of a possible 20 stores in total in the next couple of years. “We’re looking at all the major shopping centres in the UK, like Bluewater and the Metro Centre in Newcastle. We’re not really keen on being on the high street.” Rich also says that Skopes is a family business and all of the development they do comes out of funds that they make from the business. There’s no borrowing.
The new Skopes branding features a smaller underlined ‘o’ which signifies the button hole of a suit, and the changing room walls feature tailoring patterns to further emphasise what the brand is all about.
There’s no hire service, an area that Rich says is in decline, and there’s no made to measure. It’s strictly off the peg, but there’s plenty of suiting options for every occasion, as well as shirts, ties, pocket squares, cufflinks and coats. There’s also leather accessories, such as belts and wallets and more casual weekend quilted jackets, caps and scarves. “We’re currently working on our more casual package,” says Rich, with roll-neck and V-neck knitwear to make a debut to the brand’s offer in the future.
“But now is the party season, and at the front of the store we’re very much prepped for the party,” says Rich, who also reveals that waistcoats have become a massive part of the business. It appears the Gareth Southgate effect is lingering on, long after England’s World Cup exit.
Prices of the Skopes offer are keen too, with two-piece suits starting at £135, waistcoats at £39 and coats at £109. Jackets, trousers and waistcoats can all be bought as separates if preferred. Everything is made overseas, mainly in China. Skopes also has a shareholder in China.
The input Dalziel & Pow has had on the new branding, which is also now present on the Skopes website, has meant a new focus on the brand’s strengths. Rich explains: “Working with Dalziel & Pow, internationally acclaimed retail designers, they felt that Skopes has loads of personality. One thing they wanted to do was put that in to the suits. So, for each suit we’ve developed a personality and story, which is even written on the ticketing.
“There’s the ‘best first impression suit’ if you’ve got an interview, or you’re going to meet your father-in-law! For instance, the ‘Desmond’ suit is one of our most popular styles, either with a tailored single or double-breasted jacket, in a check or plain fabric, and slim tailored trouser.”
Dressing up more does indeed appear to be a current trend in menswear. “We definitely see a future for formalwear,” says Rich. “Even with the more dressed down options, and mixing and matching jackets, trousers and waistcoats, or wearing a roll-neck or a printed shirt under a formal jacket. The one thing we’re not is ‘suits you sir!’.” This is suiting for the modern generation, at a competitive price.