Duke & Dexter
One of Britain’s most popular online footwear specialists has made its first move onto the high street with the opening of a flagship store in London’s Covent Garden. Founded in 2014, Duke & Dexter specialise in high quality men’s loafers selling to over 100 countries worldwide during its short history.
With shoes designed and handcrafted in England, high quality craftsmanship is at the heart of Duke & Dexter. Archie Hewlett, founder and director of the company, spoke to Premier Retail about the origins, design and significance of the new store:
“Obviously we’re a shoe brand and a lot of people want to try shoes on before purchasing. We’d started and built online, and made this service very customer friendly but, at the same time, there’s also that side of the market who want to try on. The intention was to allow customers to try the shoes on and once they’ve done this they have a reference for future purchases.
“I also think that because we’re very price competitive compared to our rivals, customers want to check the quality which is just as good as always but now we can show that easier. The store is also about giving customers an experience. For two and half years the website and social media had been the only way to get the brand across. We wanted to give an enhanced experience with the store.
“We like the mix in seven dials and Covent Garden was always our number one location, partly because of its British heritage but also because of its global footfall. The combination in seven dials of the big brands and the independent brands is the perfect fit.”
While traditionally a company would put significant planning into opening a flagship store, in Duke & Dexter’s case it was a project that developed quickly from an initial idea in summer 2016. The original plan had been to explore the possibility of a pop up shop over the Christmas period. However, once identifying Covent Garden in the possibility of a flagship store, it was too good to pass up.
A quick fit out by London based firm Dreambox followed in time for a grand opening in the middle of November last year. The actual design of store is simple and welcoming as Archie explained:
“The store works perfectly in terms of shape and structure for us. It’s fairly thin and narrow which works for fitting shoes. We didn’t want to be too intense with the displays. Each of the shoe collections is very different and there is a variety of materials, prints and colours used that if we were to coat them in displays they would lose their identities. The quality of the shoe needs to be shown.
“As you move to the back of the store it becomes a lot more informal. On the right hand side we have a coffee bar where we always invite customers to pop in and grab a coffee. Whether they are browsing or just want a drink is not relevant to us, we just want them to have a good store experience.
“To the left is the bespoke bar which is where we have all the different material types and we actually have the shoes at each stage of being made as well as the traditional tools used. This is also where Daniel Cordas, a shoe artist who previously worked at Harrods, works. He customises the shoes and can do pretty much anything on them. He uses all sorts of paint and oil bases, and can draw prints or initials as well as having the licenses for cartoon figures. That’s another fantastic addition to the store.”
At the back of the store is an area for customers to sit down, relax and enjoy the space. Taken as a whole, the shop is more than just a place to buy shoes with Archie concluding:
“It’s massive getting this store open and we’ve always been so grateful as to how well the website has done. The beauty of an online presence is you can be a tiny brand but still have a huge representation. However, the store was always that next step and even though it’s a big risk and cost, it enhances the customer appeal.”