Jess Whitam surveys Brixton’s rapidly changing retail scene
As The Baron, one of Brixton’s oldest independent shops, closes after over 50 years of trading, a number of contrasting retail destinations have chosen Brixton as the location for their newest UK stores.
Morleys, Brixton’s historic department store, is host to two significant newcomers to the local retail scene – Beyond Retro and Shoeaholics, a Kurt Geiger spin-off.
The store opened as Morley and Lanceley in 1880 and continues to act as a signpost to the type of shopping destination Brixton is viewed as.
Where Topshop once stood as a large concession in Morleys, is now Shoeaholics – a Kurt Geiger owned accessory supermarket.
Shoeaholics, which only operated online before 12 April, is focussed on branded shoes and discounts.
Parent company Kurt Geiger is currently expanding and has opened other physical stores across the country.
The company’s digital director Gareth Rees-John has said: “There is a gap in the market for a one-stop shop for shoes from more than 100 great brands, especially with the future of department stores at risk.”
Chief executive Neil Clifford suggests: “The lives of the young have been on hold for 12 months so we’ll see a real rush back to normality from them.
“The economic recovery will be funded by youth more than ever before.”
He added: “Whilst we have a strong online business, we know that stores and digital working together is the perfect retail cocktail.
“Customers love choice and where we have a retail presence we achieve an almost 40% better online business in that area.”
Alongside the Brixton opening are others in Stratford and on Holloway Road – reinforcing this interest in combining online sales with a move back to the high street.
This is despite the move online for Topshop – which has been bought by ASOS – and Debenhams.
While some of the more unique Brixton institutions like The Baron have declined, there is clearly a drive from businesses to move into Brixton, and many of these stores are distinctively trendy or quirky.
The vintage retailer Beyond Retro has now opened inside Morleys, which is going through a process of contemporary redevelopment.
The other Beyond Retro stores are in Soho, Brick Lane, Dalston, Brighton and Bristol – which are typically seen as fashion forward destinations.
The franchise has never before ventured into South London.
With the lack of tourist footfall, there is a wave of big fashion retailers choosing to move away from central London and towards neighbourhoods.
Kate Peters, managing director at Beyond Retro, reported: “We’ve been hunting for the perfect shop in South London for years, and with our hugely successful garage sales in Peckham, we knew we needed to find a long-term base in the area.
“Brixton is the most wonderfully creative area, and we’re proud to be welcomed into such a prominent, popular destination store.”
Beyond Retro features brands including Levis and Nike, and styles from silk slip dresses to waterproof jackets.
At the time of writing, the website of highly popular Kilo Sale events at Pop Brixton – with clothes at £15 a kilo – says all sales are on hold until further notice.
Make do and Mend’s Pop Brixton vintage clothes shop also remains closed, but like larger traders it is also looking to boost website sales.
Beyond Retro and Kurt Geiger are hugely different companies, but their arrival suggests that customers shopping in Brixton have been identified as looking to invest in both sustainability and labels.
Vintage pieces as well as concession accessories potentially benefit more from an in-store experience, and so it will be interesting to see how consumer habits alter as we move out of lockdown restrictions.
Morleys opening hours:
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 6pm
Sunday: 11am – 5pm