‘A theme park for fashion’: General Pants shoots a three
General Pants Co. chief executive Craig King does, and he’s betting experience will stave off the discount drug that Australia’s rag trade has become hooked on.
On Thursday night King and his team hosted around 2,800 customers at a new store in Westfield Paramatta, showcasing a modern take on retail that’s all about local, customer focused design.
The 800sqm location was described as a theme park for fashion by one customer, sporting vintage arcade games, hip hop murals and a basketball half-court that’s already been broken in by NBA championship player Andrew Bogut.
Customers flocked, forcing the business to institute a five-minute limit on court time as the queue started building, which as the current retail mood goes is a good problem to have.
Its an unprecedented time in Australia’s discretionary retail sector. Online players are sophisticating at a rapid rate and international retail giants are looking Down Under – dozens of local businesses have folded.
For General Pants, which less than two weeks ago was fielding inquiries about the collapse of its Metalicus business, the need to innovate is well understood.
“If your store isn’t becoming more interesting, more creative and more compelling to your audience then you’re going to leak footfall and sales,” King told Inside Retail.
“The sheer volume of discounting from pure play online retailers is high and being multi-branded there are a number of our brands that appear on pure play sites.
“We’re basically trading out against price, so if we can’t provide enough theatre or reason to come into store [we’ll] get exposed,” he said.
Parramatta is the fourth larger ‘mega store’ the denim and street wear business has opened in in the last twelve months as it looks to ensure its offer remains relevant in the eyes of a changing customer base.
Now 44-years-old, General Pants has a very different customer than it did in the 1970s, but has latched onto modern cultural trends in recent years, gaining a loyal following of millennials.
With more than 50 stores across the country King doesn’t think the new format is required everywhere, but in centres like Parramatta, where demographics are becoming more favourable, investment makes sense.
“We just want customers to flow through the store, it might register negatively on conversion rates, but if we have ten thousand people visiting every week we’re doing something right,” King said.
The in store basketball court has already been earmarked for monthly competitions and other out-of-hours events, and while the area takes up space that could be dedicated to stock, King said customers are responding well.
“Ultimately if you’re just going to showcase your product that’s one thing, but it just seems a little bit static,” King said, confident that sales will follow increased dwell time, even if customers don’t buy something every time they come into the store.
The stock that is in the new store is showcased – gone are the days of packing every square metre with racks of clothing.
It fits with the strategy. King said the broader market is currently suffering from too much product being in the market, which was driving discounting.
“Our biggest concern is that there’s already possible too much product in the marketplace,” he said.
“Retailers are challenging with managing their inventory effectively, and suppliers and brands need to check themselves as to their expectations with how much product can be pushed.”
Experience is the name of the game in 2018 and General Pants is throwing threes.