There’s controversy brewing on Australia’s shores. The combination of a high dollar and an average shopping experience in-store has sent shoppers online – and many retailers are crying poor over their losses.

So it was with interest that I accepted an invite to preview the new Forever New flagship store just prior to its first day of trading. For those not familiar, Forever New is one of Australia’s answers to Topshop; a high street retailer aimed at a young middle market.

I wanted to know: given how soft retail sales are in Australia right now and how easily retailers in all segments of the market can learn valuable lessons from their foreign counterparts, including the likes of Topshop (indeed, Forever New’s National VM and Marketing Manager, Becky Roddis, hails from the UK retail giant), how would they handle a new flagship store? What would they do to differentiate themselves and float above those floundering, woe-is-me retailers?

forever new melbourne central

Click the thumbnails for full pictures:
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne
Forever New flagship store, Melbourne

The answer for any store is, of course, to create the experience that shoppers at all levels of the market really want. An experience that goes beyond the experience you can get online. For Forever New, that’s key – and it’s why the chain is expanding while others shrink. They create an experience that draws in their particular audience. They work off a continual process of test and measure (a new dedicated Resort section; an experimental Couture line playing with higher price points). They’ve just expanded their ‘styling bar’ concept to include paid styling sessions (redeemable on product, of course) and group ‘parties’ with a sectioned-off set of changing rooms (sure to be a hit with the teen market). The product is geared towards an always complimentary aesthetic of pick-and-mix, with new collections dropping every five weeks.

While the new flagship (located at Melbourne Central shopping centre in the former Colorado store) is quite an impressive overhaul with clever uses of space, the most significant thing about Forever New is how an improved outlook and focus on experience can work wonders for a retailer in this environment.

So we end up at this bottom line: successful retailers are ones who see a predicament (the financial crisis, shoppers heading online) as an opportunity. An opportunity to stand apart from their competitors in some way. Many stores have the right stock; they just need to put in place a few of the principles that the likes of Forever New live by.

You can see more pictures of the new Melbourne flagship at the gallery below.

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