Walking down the Burlington Arcade as I have when in London since turning 18, has without doubt, changed somewhat.
The layout is generally the same with uniformed commissionaires manning both entrances.
But, 40 years ago it was predominantly a cashmere and luxury knitwear arcade.
Today with the exception of N Peal cashmere which incidentally is now owned by a Harrogate based company…. only a polished brass footplate, stating the former business name of Lord, who were gown makers and purveyors of luxury men’s clothing, give a clue to times gone by when American and Japanese tourists filled the tiny shops therein, buying cashmere sweaters by the armful.
A friend in the trade supplied several of the shops in the arcade back in the 70’s and made a fortnightly delivery to various shops with 200-300 sweaters a time.
It wasn’t unusual to receive clients there with several homes who would buy a certain amount of colours and styles and multiply the order by the number of homes they had!
Nowadays Burlington Arcade is essentially an arcade offering high end pre owned watches and jewellery ….but not unlike Harrogate and other towns, it has an alarming amount of empty units.
I bumped into a Harrogate jeweller there, who like myself takes a ‘bus man’s holiday’ to visit the arcade cutting through from Piccadilly.
A pleasant catch up and chat about the importance of social media in today’s retailing, we bid each other goodbye and I headed to the nearby Royal Arcade to visit a niche optician, E B Meyrowitz established in 1875, to have my latest frames adjusted and tightened, carefully resisting the call and lure of the frames in horn, that were clearly saying, after a large glass of Chianti, ( f f ph ph ff f fur ) buy me’.
Although I’ve already mentally purchased them …so it’s only time and a few more shekels to save, …then my partner can say to me ‘you are mental’…however un ‘pc’ that may be.
Excellent, obliging service, product knowledge and only one other branch in Paris and one in New York, makes this a niche business that thrives in challenging times.
There are a plethora of niche businesses in London that continue to do so well… exclusivity, service, excellent products and knowledgeable staff, make for a niche that is hard to roll out or replicate.
S M Novella in Piccadilly Arcade is a fine example of this ‘Niche’ !
My friend there Bran told me they served 200-300 customers per day over Christmas, as you know it’s a brand we have added at Rhodes-Wood, which makes us the only stockist outside London…and whilst we didn’t have 200 + customers per day we did sell out of some products within the range.
So in my humble opinion, where there is a niche there is a possible solution to the dreariness of the high street in general.
At Rhodes-Wood we continue to try and improve and we have implemented all sorts of systems to improve service, tightened up delivery schedules, we continue with visiting our makers and learning by asking questions.
Our social media platforms are lively and organic with genuine followers who interact with us.
Whilst we are computerised and communicate with our clientele via sms and social media, we still hand write all receipts, use an old fashioned pen and ink counter book (quicker than any computer, providing it gets filled in properly) and we use our nickel till from 1904 daily even if it only goes up to the princely sum of £6.
So we are a niche, a shopping experience, a meeting place of like minds, far from the madding crowd and we are here to help and advise.
We continue to run our by appointment office in London, which is why I was there today, to look after client’s personally and of course to fit in lunch…. it’s the only time when not at the shop I get to enjoy a proper break and to be Burlington Bertie….if only for a day.