Kipling global president Vera Breur on the bag brand's new store concept

In an effort to appeal to millennials and men of all ages, bag brand Kipling has chucked out the chintz in favour of a more urban store environment.

Previously, the stores were done up in pastel pink, complete with carpeting and pale timber flooring. For those, “the inspiration was the boudoir experience,” says global president Vera Breuer. Now, there are brick accent walls in slate grey and street-style art.

When the mid-range Belgian accessories brand was founded in 1987, its audience was in their 20s. Since its purchase by VF ten years ago, it has expanded rapidly and now has 436 stores across 80 countries. But in the last three years, growth has slowed, says Breuer. That original audience is 20 no longer and “we realized we had to reposition the brand towards a younger target consumer,” says Breuer.

Olivier Gay, Kipling’s VP and GM EMEA explains that “we have repositioned it with products that recruit a new customer.” That means fewer prints and patterns on the bags and luggage, and a relaunch of some of the styles from the 1990s in unisex single colours. He cites the New Classic collection which comes in “poppy colours”. And the brand has reintroduced the 1990s bumbag, which is now more typically worn diagonally across the chest rather than around the hips. Also to this end, Kipling has recruited a new product designer – Denielle Wolfe from New York City, who was previously with luggage brand Tumi, which has a store in the same block as the brand’s Regent Street store.

The chain has a new slogan, Live Light, which is about empowering your curiosity to go your own way, explains Breuer.

This is manifested in Fitch’s new store concept. As well as those brick walls, the revamped stores have brushed concrete floors, grey metal merchandising units and park bench-style slatted tops on the lower storage. In each store, a local artist has done a mural of the brand’s monkey icon on the wall behind the cash desk, which customers use as a selfie spot (London’s is by Fanakapan). And a map of the city hangs nearby, with interesting destinations highlighted.

Fitch’s concept is evolved and executed by the regional in-house team. For the London store, it was handled by Europe’s three-strong team based in Kipling’s home town Antwerp.

Rather than revealing the cost of the refurbishments, Breuer says that 20% of Kipling’s marketing and advertising spend has gone on the new look, which has so far been applied to 36 outlets. The intention is to refurbish or relocate all stores in the next three years. Some of the 30 stores across Europe will close, as Kipling focuses on key sites.

London’s Regent Street site completed earlier this summer, but at just 65sqm this is a holding store until Kipling can move to a bigger flagship in the next year or so. “We have bigger brand awareness in Belgium but the UK is a window in the world,” says Gay.

So far, the repositioning is paying off in London, as around 25% of the traffic is now male. In contrast, the old format’s audience was almost 100% women.

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