London’s nonessential retailers opened for business today for the first time since March 17.
Luxury brands including Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Fendi have worked closely with their landlord, Cadogan, drawing on the experience gained in already reopened European cities such as Paris and Milan.
“As the majority landlord for Sloane Street, public safety is our absolute priority and we have been working actively with the retailers to ensure that the luxury shopping environment and experience is reassuringly safe and uncompromised,” said Cadogan CEO Hugh Seaborn in a statement.
“The spacious stores, wide pavements, unhurried environment and ample green space surrounding Sloane Street are naturally conducive to social distancing and safe shopping,” he added.
Services provided by some retailers include personal chauffeurs and curbside collection with contactless payment, plus home delivery within London and even special consignment options where a curated edit of products can be delivered — and customers are charged only for the items they opt to keep.
Elsewhere, virtual shopping will be offered via Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime or telephone at stores such as Balenciaga. Meanwhile, at locations including Tod’s, and Meghan Markle favorite Mackage, customers can book private appointments both inside and outside regular opening hours.
At Prada’s Sloane Street flagship, clients can book virtual sales appointments with stylists and pick up their purchases via curbside collection or elect for a home delivery option. The Prada group set a benchmark for its progressive safety protocols when it reopened production in April with monthly virus and antibody testing for staff.
The Miista footwear boutique on Sloane Square is doubling down on safety precautions. Customers will be able to try on the shoes with protective socks. But to avoid any risk of cross-contamination, purchases will be delivered 48 hours later direct from the brand’s warehouse.
Since masks and gloves are not a legal government requirement, it has been left to individual retailers to determine how they operate. Many are implementing their own strict mask wearing policies for staff and customers alike. Some boutiques such as Anya Hindmarch are asking all customers to put on gloves before touching the merchandise.
Customers can also expect luxury hand sanitizer on tap that’s in keeping with brands and boutiques aesthetic. During the pandemic, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and more houses turned over their perfume making capacities to produce medical-grade hand sanitizer gel, donating this to hospitals in Europe and the U.K.
Rag & Bone is operating the sort of consignment service usually reserved for high rolling private clients. Dubbed RbDelivered, it is offering curated stylist deliveries tailored to a customer’s individual interests where you can keep what you like and return the rest free of charge.
The brand is also offering enhanced services, such as private physical appointments, scheduled virtual appointments, live chat features and curbside pickup. Customers who know exactly what they want can call the store, pay via telephone and arrange to meet a sales associate outside to collect their purchase.
Drive-by style curbside pickups, usually more the preserve of fast food restaurants than luxury fashion, have already proved popular among retailers in the U.S. — where the car is a more ubiquitous mode of transport than in European capitals.
And with many Londoners now reluctant to use public transport, businesses are pulling out all stops to recoup lost revenue and woo back customers. The service looks set to become part of the new retail landscape on this side of the pond as well.