After months in lockdown, local and international shops have reopened and with innovative measures to ensure the safeguarding of customers, staff and the wider community
Shops in Sloane Street, Duke of York Square, King’s Road and the surrounding streets have been busy since reopening for business last month. In line with government guidance, and working closely with Cadogan, brands have been going to great lengths to provide safe, socially-distanced shopping, with in-store sanitation, PPE masks and gloves now the norm.
Less densely populated than more centrally-located shopping areas, with wider pavements and spacious boutiques, Sloane Street, in particular, has an advantage when it comes to social distancing, which is being encouraged through pavement signage.
As Ed Humbert, senior director at CBRE, points out: “Sloane Street has several things in its favour compared to say Bond Street. It has always been a high-end, luxury street with lower pedestrian flow but higher spend per person and, unlike Bond Street, which is an arterial route for people walking to and from other locations who aren’t necessarily buying anything, it’s not a natural thoroughfare.
People in Sloane Street are generally there to shop so you’ve got less natural bustle.
“It’s also easier to control the distancing in the boutiques in Sloane Street as a lot of them are quite opulent in size so it’s not as if you’re going to be crammed in there with hundreds of other people. So there is less anxiety in actually getting into the stores.”
Some boutiques have opened with reduced hours and, by limiting the number of customers who enter the store, have created an even more luxurious and personal experience, so you can browse collections from the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Fendi and Prada in a more leisurely way.
At Harvey Nichols, for the first time, Rewards customers are being offered the opportunity to book a time slot to visit the store. Not only will these appointments enable customers to fast-track the queues, but a dedicated style advisor will be on hand to assist with enquiries and to help navigate the store.
Tony Wheeler, head of branch at Peter Jones says he’s delighted to be welcomoing customers back. “We’ve worked hard to create a safe shopping environment to protect you and our Partners and we all look forward to seeing you again soon,” he says. The store is operating slightly reduced hours (10am-6pm Monday-Saturday and midday-6pm Sunday).
Many brands are offering private one-to-one appointments, while some including Balenciaga, Chloé and Tod’s are offering clients the opportunity to visit their stores outside opening hours.
For those who would rather shop from home, some boutiques are offering distance shopping by phone or digitally via Zoom, WhatsApp and Facetime.
Home delivery within London is being offered by brands including Louis Vuitton, Red Valentino and Hermès. Rag & Bone is offering a consignment service whereby a curated edit of products is delivered and only those kept by the customer are charged for.
Jewellery and accessories designers in the area are also being extra vigilant. Kiki McDonough says: “We are doing as we are told by the government. We are having a maximum of two customers per household and a maximum of four people in the store at any one time. Hand sanitiser and masks are being provided and the store team will wear them if they wish to.
“We have designated serving areas, which are cleaned after each customer, and are doing our best to serve whilst maintaining a social distance. Jewellery is thoroughly disinfected afterwards as it always is. The safety of our staff and clients is our upmost priority but we are really looking forward to getting back to normality.”
Laurent Feniou, managing director at Cartier, says boutique appointments are being encouraged and prioritised. “We opened with the utmost respect of social distancing rules and with new hygiene measures implemented to ensure the safety of our clients and employees,” he says.
“We are thrilled to have reopened our doors, welcoming clients back to our Maison in a safe and comfortable environment.”
At Anya Hindmarch, customers must wear gloves if they want to touch products, while Moscot is providing designated mirrors for clients to remove masks and try on frames, with all frames being disinfected in between customers.
At Miista, customers must try on shoes with protective socks and will receive their purchase 48 hours later from the warehouse to avoid any risk of contamination.
Astrid & Miyu is trialling a break-out ear consultation area – customers visit a sanitised area in store, where they are provided with disposable gloves and mask. Earrings are presented on a tray and selected items placed onto a stand to hold up to the ear before purchase. No contact of product is necessary.
Henrietta Rix, co-founder of fashion brand Rixo on the King’s Road, says: “The safety of our customers and our staff are our top priority.
“We are limiting the number of people allowed in the store at once and are taking all other recommended precautions such as our staff wearing face masks, providing hand sanitiser for customers and deep cleansing of the store.”
British luxury nightwear brand Olivia von Halle is allowing one person in store at a time to ensure social distancing is possible and to keep staff and customers as safe as possible. To avoid waiting, customers can call the store to book a private shopping appointment at a time that is convenient to them. It is also offering a same-day delivery service within London on all orders placed over the phone before 3pm.
Olivia says she is “absolutely delighted” to welcome customers back to the store.
“Our team, the surrounding businesses and our clientele have over the years become one community and that personal touchpoint was very much missed throughout lockdown.
“The space feels like the true home of the brand and we’re thrilled to be able to safely open our doors once again.”
The last few weeks have also seen a focus on click and collect, while kerb-side collection provides contactless delivery to waiting cars that are allowed to stop for 20 minutes on the street’s single yellow lines. Some retailers have even been providing a chauffeur service for their customers.
As CBRE’s Humbert says: “It’s about how you get to the location as well. The higher-end luxury clientele are either coming generally by personal car or some of them will perhaps be local residents who are walking to the street which is a far more comfortable experience than getting on a tube.”
Humbert, who has worked on several major Sloane Street deals, is confident that business will bounce back. “I’m optimistic,” he says. “I think people can look beyond Covid-19.”
Hugh Seaborn, CEO at Cadogan, agrees: “I am confident that as people increasingly venture out, they will value what they have locally more than ever. “Chelsea is immensely fortunate to have a wide and rich range of boutiques and restaurants, coupled to a strong sense of community that appeals to all tastes.”
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