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Better latte than never

● Exmouth Market – Space

The grab-and-go-culture leaves very little time for taking a look around and can have a detrimental effect on independent greetings card stores whereas, when customers make the decision to slow down and have a latte, John Ryan has noticed a distinct loosening of the purse strings.


N LONDON’S Duke Street, in the very posh extreme northern end of Mayfair, there’s a store that until recently was part of the upscale fashion and homewares outfit Bluebird.

Owned and operated by Jigsaw, this space has just become the newest outpost of embattled neardesigner brand French Connection. Both the now vanished store and the new arrival have a café, clothes and homewares – and a section devoted to books and greetings cards. The latter in both outlets consists of a highlycurated selection of pretty expensive hand-painted and handmade items. These are actually still small change for those who are likely to frequent these premises and, well, it gives you something else to do while waiting for that skinny latte and gluten-free brownie to be brought to your table by the curiously thin and better-looking-than-you member of staff. All this goes to show is that, while Bluebird may have come and gone and French Connection have taken their place, given the chance shoppers will buy a card or two if they have an idle moment. Now head across town to Exmouth Market, just to the north-west of the City, and there’s a gift shop called Space. This is the sort of place you pop into during the lunch hour (there are a lot of design agencies in this neck of the woods) before sitting down to enjoy a skinny latte from nearby café-cum-music shop Brill (it is). And what’s surprising is just how busy Space are – given the fact that footfall in the area is pretty proscribed and there really can’t be that many birthdays, can there? In both the Duke Street and Exmouth Market

John Ryan is Stores Editor at Retail Week where he’s worked for more than a decade covering store design, visual merchandising and what makes things sell in-store. In a previous life he was a retail buyer. T: 07710 429926 twitter: @newstores


The answer would seem to be that, while it’s not necessarily a cheap thing do to, it instils a state of mind where shoppers go into have-a-look-around mode. By definition, having a coffee, solus or with friends, means that time has been carved out for the activity. It would be easy to pick up a drink to go, but a decision has been made to take time out. This in turn means that when the bottom of the cup is reached, there will still probably be time to do a little shopping, whether it’s taking a look at a range in-store or popping next door. So, do you have coffee available in your store, or is there a good, preferably an indie, café very close at hand? If the answer to either of these is yes, there’s a fair chance your card and/or gift shop will benefit. If there’s nothing of the kind around, then the mindset of passing trade will be grab and go and there may not even be time for that. If you’re wondering how to upgrade your existing shop, then a small café space could be a better latte than never investment (groan!) and, if you’re looking for a new store, consider the effect your immediate neighbours will have on shoppers

When the bottom of the cup is reached, there will still be time for shopping

outposts, a virtue has been made of keeping things simple – fancy fixtures, digital flimflam and plush toys are nowhere to be seen, with simple spinner displays, plywood shelving and slatwall being the order of the day. And they work in more or less the same manner – the key is coffee. In Duke Street the French Connection store have a Fernandez & Wells coffee shop-in-shop where the baristas do their thing. Over in Exmouth Market, even though they’re not actually part of the same institution, Space benefit from both the aforementioned Brill and, a few more doors distant, casual dining and coffee emporium Caravan. Both of these make the business of slowing down, which means time to buy a card, a part of what the whole ethos is about, so what exactly is it that imbibing a caffeine-laced hot beverage does to loosen the purse-strings?

– it makes all the difference. @greetingstoday

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