Glue makes a case for a luxury, youth department store

An 800sqm SuperGlue store that opened at Westfield Penrith in New South Wales today is being positioned as the youth-focused luxury department store that has been missing from Australia’s retail landscape. 

“I don’t necessarily believe that Australia department stores do the best job they could for the youth sector,” said Darren Todd, who was appointed CEO of Glue Store’s parent company Next Athleisure in May. 

Todd, the former managing director of Country Road and previously an executive at Woolworths Holdings in South Africa, isn’t put off by the slowing sales that have plagued this part of the retail sector in Australia and abroad.

“The department store format is what makes it tired…walking into a store that has three floors full of different products that aren’t particularly well segmented,” he told Inside Retail.

“But a space that houses great brands that are well showcased and easy to shop and are aspirational…if that’s the modern take on a youth department store, I’m happy for someone to call it out.”

Todd compared the new SuperGlue store, the third large-format store from youth fashion chain Glue Store, and its biggest yet, to the likes of British menswear boutique End Clothing and the men’s and women’s fashion floors at Selfridges. 

The brand mix includes international streetwear, sport and fashion brands, such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Carhartt and Fred Perry, alongside up-and-coming local brands like First Muse and Glue Store’s own brands, such as Nude Lucy and Lulu & Rose.

“It’s the way the whole mix of brands come together that give people a sense of aspiration,” Todd said. “It’s the look and feel of a luxury youth department store without it feeling out of reach.”

The inspiration for the new store came from a trip Todd took to Japan shortly after he started at Next Athleisure.

“It’s an incredibly inspiring country from a retail but also an interiors and space perspective,” he said. “We were able to identify some exciting new opportunities to bring back to Australia as part of this concept.”

The interior of the store features a mix of unfinished and polished materials that “show the bones of the store” and includes space for exciting brand activations. 

The SuperGlue store in Melbourne Emporium, for instance, has a ‘black box’ that is taken over by a new brand every month. Currently, it features a gifting activation that is a collaboration between Glue Store and Typo.

In-store activations are an important part of Glue Store’s strategy to bring customers into its stores, a tall order given the fact that its core demographic – 18-28 year olds – are among the most likely to shop online.

“In an era when there’s been a lot written about the end of bricks-and-mortar, my view is that people are looking for inspiration,” Todd said. 

“People are looking for brands and businesses that can curate an offer for them. If you can curate an offer with a compelling mix of brands and products, it’s the type of experience that people will want to wake up on a Saturday morning and go into the city to see a format like that.”

That’s a bet many in the industry will be keen to see play out. In September, JD Sports Australia, the local arm of the British sportswear giant, reportedly sold its 80 per cent stake in Next Athleisure, which it paid $6.6 million for when it entered the market in 2017, to Next Athleisure Holdings, which is owned by Next founder and chairman Hilton Seskin.

The Herald Sun reported JD Sports’ British parent as saying Glue Store had become “an increasing distraction” and that it was trading at a loss.

This story was updated on 04/12/19 at 15:12 to include information about the sale of Glue Store to Next Athleisure Holdings.

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