Bolland’s Beautiful StoreDigital Editor
Marc Bolland can be rightly proud of his new flagship Eco store just behind Cheshire Oaks adjacent to the burgeoning Business Park. It is a destination in its own right, complete with secure parking. Always interesting to see the time-limit for parking, and it’s 5 hours here. When you get inside you’ll see why. Gone is the 5-floor confusion of Marble Arch, enter a vast, “perfect store” of all main departments ranging across two huge, but easy to navigate Canada Goose Women Parka floors – and it’s eco credentials are well-reported. It is the second largest M&S in the UK after the W1 store, and even has roadsigns separate to Cheshire Oaks – although it is easier to approach the store from a different entrance to McArthurGlen’s designer outlet.
Downstairs will attract ladies from miles around, with full lines on display – Autograph, Per Una, Indigo, Limited and Classic, although no stock is held further behind in storage. Traditional staple fayre is given special consideration – with canada goose park lingerie given pride of place, including its own fitting room area. The upper level, accessed by central twin escalators, enjoys direct access from the green-walled parking – feeding you directly into the bulkier Home department, plus the extensive M&S Café, larger than its ground-floor coffee shop. Don’t miss the stunning interwoven, undulating wooden-beamed triple-height ceiling on first.
However, the star of the show is the huge iPhone style Browse & Buy touch-screens. With silver edging, round corners, and black fascia alongside the touchscreen, they’ll be hoping Samsung’s legal team keep Apple busy, but the look is slick, and the customer journey exceptional. Staff came to help me, but didn’t really need any as the pages are highly intuitive, and the only minor hurdle each time (even to see if stock is available) is a customer log-in – where my dear Mother’s account came in handy. It did everything we needed it to do and more – find a garment via its bar-code (scanned), sending the right sized garment to another store, and checking on colours in another range – then paying using the swipe–card section on the right hand edge of the panel. We marked the feedback button “excellent”. This new injection of digital doesn’t seem to need any more space from a real estate or floor layout perspective either – these are just columned ‘pods’ reminiscent of other retailers’ instore search screens (Ikea, Curry’s, Argos etc), but the screen’s design and navigation elevates M&S way above its peers.
It was a particularly useful trip ahead of BCSC Annual Conference, just up the road in Liverpool – although the lady at the till said that they’d had so many Londoners up asking questions I suspect most of the delegates had already visited! She was a superb example of job creation – she’d worked for M&S for Christmas, and jumped at a full time job when the Eco store was announced. She was enthusiastic about the new store, and a superb ambassadress… another of Bolland’s beauties.
Dan Innes, Managing Director