After almost 50 years on the Australian retail scene, the Saba brand is no stranger to reinvention. Launching a new flagship store in Melbourne this week, perfectly timed amidst the flurry of Melbourne spring fashion week (MSFW), this was another subtle reinvention. Reinventions can’t be limited solely to the visual appeal of a new store fit out, however. To be worth the effort they need to have a grander aim, a purpose, a goal. And in this current climate where store after store will tell you they’re doing it tough, that goal has to addressing the generalised downturn in fashion retail. I say generalised for a reason: retail isn’t dying, instead consumer demands are changing. Which is a great thing for the retailers willing to adapt, to change with us.
So with their hopes of surviving another 50 years in the industry, what have Saba done with their new store? What does it offer that it didn’t before? And is it worthy of the oft abused title of ‘flagship’?
Saba already existed in the previously ultra-spartan Collins Street space, but walk in now and you’d think it was a different building. The decor is fresh but ultimately clean, and the two-level shop had previously been separated solely into male and female sections but is now further broken down into sections such as denim or accessories.
In times of low spend many brands have gravitated towards more basic, long wearing pieces rather than statements. Saba have gone for a balance of both, launching the sizeable Saba Denim range that’s based around the kind of casual pieces and affordable price points that facilitate fast and repeat purchases. On the statement side they’re still catering to their race wear audience with suits for the guys and dresses in bold hues – like turquoise and fuchsia – for the girls. Marketing & PR Manager, Elisha Marshall, explained that the store relaunch is less about doing something completely different and more about a refresh, particularly where product is concerned. “It’s about staying true to what we’re known for,” she said.
Another change rolled out in Saba’s new Melbourne flagship is the incorporation of technology – following the path paved by retail pioneer Burberry by giving customers direct access to in-store technology. Tablet computers are stationed on both levels with the aim of locking in sales even when stock isn’t on hand, and giving customers a more satisfied in-store experience. “If you can’t find something, if we don’t have the stock here,” Eleisha told us, “you can still order it instantly and you’ll receive it within the next couple of days.”
So will a new mix of stock, a visually improved space, and the introduction of (some) technology be enough to bring in customers and get them spending?
The reality is that the new Saba flagship won’t be making news headlines for doing anything revolutionary; for doing anything that hasn’t been done in retail before. But an improved setting and stock availability at least differentiates them from a good number of their neighbours.
The store can be found at 234 Collins Street, Melbourne. You can view more photos from the launch event by clicking on the thumbnails above.