Urban grooves

Urban designsFashion and footwear retailer, Urban Equipment, opened its refurbished Liverpool store on August 22, marking the refresh of one the oldest stores of the 20-year-old retailer’s network.

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Boasting a revitalised shopfront, new fixtures and an entire reimagined feature wall, the facelift keeps the store relevant to the Urban Equipment image, which focuses on industrial, underground and urban. As such, the store uses a lot of greys, resulting in an on-trend concrete feel and features a denim wall with a brick background.

More shelving and the new, cleaner look have resulted in easier browsing, shopping and navigation through the store for customers.

Additional features within the Liverpool store align with elements showcased in the Westpoint Blacktown store – the most recent of the chain’s stores to open (in late 2014). Here, some of the apparel brands feature their own mini fitouts – G-Star’s Q-System, for example, incorporates G-Star designed furniture and apparel, allowing retailers to adopt a shop-in-shop concept.

G-Star Raw’s fixtures and light boxes were sent over from Amsterdam and the Blacktown store was among the first in NSW to feature them, Urban Equipment manager, Terry Tran, told Inside Retail Weekly.

“We’re getting a lot of fitouts from our suppliers,” Tran said. “It’s quite unique.”

Another such section was also supplied by Lacoste a few months ago.

These type of systems align with the general interior planning of the stores, whereby nothing is drilled in within fitouts. This affords the freedom for all fixtures to be moved around and rearranged throughout the store.

The Blacktown store, however, went with a slightly different direction, utilising an open plan ceiling that runs across the store and, as yellow is the company colour, bars of it are highlighted throughout. A lot of low lighting also features back off the sides, harmonising with the Urban’s moody, dark and ‘clubby’ feel.

Urban Equipment’s store footprint averages between 180sqm to 260sqm, but recently established stores are increasing in size. Blacktown is 240sqm, while Bankstown’s recent acquisition of a store adjacent to it increased its space to almost 300sqm.

Major shopping centres in Sydney’s west are favoured locations for Urban Equipment. As well as Westpoint Blacktown, Westfield Liverpool and Bankstown Central, stores are found in Westfield Burwood, Stockland Merrylands and Westfield Hurstville.

Preferred neighbouring retailers include shoes stores and other youth oriented retailers.

“We don’t carry as much footwear as other stores, so we like to be next to, for example, Platypus, Hype DC – any of those stores that are kind of connected to youth as well,” Tran said.

Family ties
A family run business, Tran’s parents started Urban Equipment in 1996, opening its first store in Hurstville in June of that year. With Tran’s father having no less than 11 siblings, this is very much a family run business. Tran’s extended family members – cousins, aunties and uncles – rotate through the Urban Equipment store network. That’s why the business is concentrated in the west of Sydney – this is where the Tran family grew up, so there’s a strong familiarity with the area.

This has made for an intimate understanding of what appeals, using traditional word of mouth along with social media to update customers on what’s up and coming, new and arriving in store, as well as specials.

“That’s always what it’s been about,” Tran said. “We carry brands that people want, because we grew up in those areas and we understand our market,” Tran observed. “We always try to bring the best we can to our area,”

The next Urban Equipment store is in the planning stage for a 2016 opening in the western Sydney region. However, the business is open to other locations should the appropriate opportunity arise.

Appealing to a wide range of ages as well as demographics, Urban Equipment’s well-known brands include G-Star, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica. Products stocked range from women’s wear and wide ranges of children’s wear. Urban also attracts older teens, as well men up to the 40s and 50s who may have grown up with popular stocked brands such as Diesel and Mambo.

Playing a strong part in attracting these markets is engaging visual merchandising, a feature across the stores.

“We showcase key styles for the season,” Tran said. “A lot of people like to come out and try on garments; we’ve always had really great customer service.”

The business draws on enthusiastic local staff “who love the brands”, as well as the business, which results in honest and reliable, old-fashioned service.

“Our staff are very down-to earth. Our employees love the brands themselves. You know how to sell when you love the brand, and the business,” Tran remarked.

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