Visual merchandiser view on lingerie retailer Bodas

One of the most interesting developments in retailing over the last 15 years has been the rise of the new specialist store: Monocle's must-have business tools, Oregon's technical gadgets, and new specialist garment stores for lingerie.

Along with the free-standing stores of lingerie-specialists Agent Provocateur, La Senza, Victoria's Secret and Bravissimo, Bodas is part of this new development. With an ethos similar to Calvin Klein's of elegant, pared-down simplicity, the brand has a honed range of lingerie, created in fine fabrics, which are carried from season to season allowing the repeat customer to replace and add to their lingerie collection, by mail order, online, and through store retailing.

Long based in Ledbury Road, one of Notting Hill's nicest streets, the Bodas store embodies the brand's ethic of everyday understated simplicity. Set up by two experienced fashion lingerie professionals more than ten years ago, the range now includes sleepwear, swimwear, home wear, and accessories, all simply displayed within the confines of the classic 19th century retail store space. Popular with models, and with a typical customer verging towards the petite end of the size range, the range is displayed in a clean, simple store fit, aligned with the pared-down brand ethic, with a cool, white-painted interior and a pale-grey painted wooden floor, neatly combining the brand’s corporate colours.

The current store, a few doors down from the original one, welcomes customers with a simple plate-glass window and glass door to the left. The visual merchandising of the open-backed store window is currently undertaken by the store staff and allows merchandise to be simply displayed by clipping it to the vertical tensioned cables, which run from floor to ceiling. A simple backdrop of seasonal props underlines the season – as in autumnal plane tree leaves tied at intervals from vertical fishing lines and suspended from the ceiling, or cotton-wool puffs representing gently falling snow for Christmas.

Inside the store, wall fixtures allow the range extensive space. A turning, grey-painted wooden staircase to the right of the store entrance gives access to the basement, which acts as a London head office. The sales space to the left of the entrance, is dominated by a wall cabinet of small frosted-glass fronted drawers containing replenishment stock, whilst above are displayed the core lingerie ranges. Beyond these, the long rectangular space is neatly portioned up with a selection of different but related fixtures, chromed or white finished, each containing one of Bodas's further ranges: sleepwear, swimwear, etc. Some of these contain an integral drawer at the base, providing more storage space for additional merchandise. The full-length merchandise in its own fixture fills the wall space beyond the simple cash desk positioned adjacent to the right wall, just before the floor rises one-step level to add interest to the space. A high level window, forming a rectangular sliver of glass well above eye-level, aids the illusion of privacy but allows additional natural light.

The use of white and grey in the interior enhances the range, much of which is in either neutrals or delicate pale skin tones – as most serious lingerie ranges in the UK tend towards. Overhead, the range is lit by a mix of angled spotlights, LED lights, and background lighting set behind a baffle, to diffuse light without creating shadowy corners or glaring beams.

Two fitting rooms are neatly tucked in to the void space above the staircase down to the lower floor, right at the back of the store. Lingerie and swimwear fitting rooms should always be in the most private corners of a retail space so as not to deter customers from using them. This makes maximum use of the retail floor, and lastly, a small padded bench is incorporated in to the frameless glass panel, which surrounds the staircase void, to provide seating for customers’ waiting friends.

Overall, the atmosphere created is one of calm, peaceful, pared-down, contemporary modernism, which is also very fashionable for domestic interiors at present: see Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs TV series for endless examples.

Bodas has an extremely well-thought-out store for its range and also for the customer footfall that they are likely to experience. Consider in comparison, the very different demands on lingerie-store retailing that Victoria’s Secret would require, where very high footfall and intensely merchandised space is a ‘must-have.’ I highly recommend a visit for anyone planning a better-end women’s or children’s wear boutique, an art gallery, or a quality shoe store. There are some very good ideas here, which would successfully translate elsewhere. Do go take a look.

Dr. Valerie Wilson Trower provides a regular column on store design for Essential Retail.