Covent Garden is an increasingly important Central London shopping location. The area’s retail has been gradually spreading out beyond the core piazza, the roads flowing from it and of course Long Acre, and now covers a much larger area. Rents have increased strongly although not everyone can continue to justify paying them. Opposite the tube station on Long Acre is a 20,000 foot M&S, predominantly selling food. The company announced its impeding closure 6 months back, triggered by prospective hikes in rent and rates.
My weekend visit to the area found varied levels of business. Most stores were rather more quiet than they need to be. Even Ted Baker, among the very strongest fashion brands, was not exactly heaving on Floral Street. H&M has a huge investment in the area. Last year it relocated its core brand to an 18,000 foot building on 4 floors on Mercer’s Walk (off Long Acre). This is a good store, even if each trading floor is relatively small.
Meanwhile, H&M’s latest brand Arket opened its second UK store last year. It is on Long Acre, almost opposite its not really very old brands And Other Stories and Cos. I wonder whether the company is able to effectively develop each brand when more keep being added to the roster. None of the H&M brands was very busy. To be fair, few of the fashion stores in the area were notably busy, with one major exception.
The major exception was TK Maxx which was packed to the rafters and doing incredible business. This is a retailer which keeps a low’ish profile but clearly has a deep understanding of its target customers and how to address them. The company’s Long Acre store is very conspicuous: a no frills discounter in a high rent, high end location. In the toughest, most over supplied retail market we have ever seen, TK Maxx continues to literally and metaphorically do the business.