Specialty Fashion Group has this week unveiled a new concept in fashion retail in Stockland Wetherill Park in western Sydney – the first of a global concept.
A multi-branded womenswear store, SFG’s One Woman concept will showcase a specially curated collection of women’s clothing from all of SFG’s retail brands – Autograph, City Chic, Crossroads, Katies, Millers and Rivers.
“It brings all our Specialty Fashion Group brands together under one roof for the first time – which is an exciting moment for us,” SFG CEO, Gary Perlstein, told Inside Retail Weekly.
Many years in the making, the new store is the culmination of SFG’s raison d’être of changing the perception of fashion among its demographic and customer population – which it views as the silent majority.
“Mature age women and plus size, curvy women actually reflect the majority of women of those who go shopping,” Perlstein said.
“Yet most of the noise is around the youth, catwalks and all the young fashion end. [One Woman] was not just a, ‘let’s throw some of our brands under one roof’; we’ve been evolving our thinking about this and thinking about how can we actually do something profound in the market place.”
One Woman in Stockland Wetherill Park in western Sydney is spruiked as the first multi-ladies fashion brand or retail concept specialising in clothing for mature or plus sized women under the one roof – with nothing else. With no kids clothing, homewares or any other peripherals, Perlstein calls One Woman, “a sanctuary, just for these women who are marginalised in the sexy end of the fashion world”.
“The majority of women are above a size 14, close to 16, so I think women feel invisible, marginalised by all the imagery of youth fashion. Our company purpose is changing the perception of fashion – that’s why we exist as a specialty fashion company. Our fashion offer will fit the customer – rather than the customer fit the fashion.”
The store stocks sizes 8 to 26 in various cuts and fits. Wetherill Park is the start of up to six One Woman stores that SFG plans to open within over the next 12 months.
The significance of its debut location hasn’t been lost on the local market, as outlined by Stockland group executive and CEO of commercial property, John Schroder.
“We know that One Woman has ambitious plans to open more stores in Australia and around the world,” Schroder said. “But it’s a huge sign of confidence in the fashion-consciousness of western Sydney that they’ve chosen Stockland Wetherill Park as the global launch pad.
“The new One Woman concept store is a fantastic addition to Stockland Wetherill Park, joining a strong stable of over 65 fashion and accessory retailers. We are very proud to be the first to bring this global fashion first to our customers in western Sydney.”
The instore experience
SFG will be scouting for appropriate sites for future One Woman stores as they become available. As per this launch store, the footprint will be around 750sqm, although around 1000sqm is the sweet spot according to Perlstein. Locations will be diverse to cater to SFG customers – within both country and urban areas, but not in metropolitan CBDs.
“Our customers shop where there’s generally a nice local supermarket, a number of specialty stores, where they can get in and out quite easily and feel that it’s a communal hub,” Perlstein elaborated.
Adding to the community feeling, regular events and get-togethers will be held, such as wine and cheese evenings and include styling consultations and presentations so women can obtain advice about which fashion items enhance their shape and style.
“All our team will be trained in understanding shape, in a very meaningful way, and what are the things that make [customers] feel uncomfortable about the whole shopping experience.”
In the fitting rooms, for example, there’s a bell to call for assistance so customers don’t have to leave the fitting room, get dressed and search for items – an irritation for many a woman. Perlstein said little touches like this are aimed at making customers as feel comfortable in the store as they would be in their own home.
Also made to feel comfortable are customers’ significant others and children – in the fitting room area, there’s a lounge where they are catered for and can relax with newspapers and water.
On the topic of water, a number of water themed graphics and sea images enhance the tranquil ambiance of the store and align with the water-based décor, featuring blues and greens. The modern classic style of this ‘sanctuary-like’ store is followed through with soft finishes including natural and painted wood.
The store opened with a stock of 30,000 units, covering 15 product categories. Each brand is curated and has its designated area, with some exceptions – such as having all the brands’ denim together in a ‘denim area’.
Adding to the transformative nature of the store is the charming ceiling decoration of 5000 colourful origami birds that lead the customer through the store.
“All the women in the foundation that we seek to help – many more than 5000 – we’re going to have their stories privately written in each one so we recognise what we’re doing for them,” Perlstein explained.
The One Woman Foundation – through which new clothing is donated to women who have never worn a new item of clothing – is very much aligned with this store launch.
“It became apparent to us that the foundation we created four years ago – there was some linkage appearing between what we were trying to do with our foundation, which was really to give dignity to women, change their lives – and the retail concept. And the foundation started merging.
“We were doing the same thing here – one in a holistic, philanthropic, charity sense, and then also something on the retail shop floor to really make women feel good – really transform them from the shopping experience, in an environment that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”
The store opening also sees the launch of One Woman bottled water – offering customers the opportunity to further contribute to the foundation.
All SFG brands have loyalty membership and customers who are part of that will be able to opt in to the One Woman loyalty scheme if they choose. And with an enormous database, SFG is eyeing off a formidable market for One Woman.
“Specialty Fashion Group has the largest database – we have eight million women on our physical database, and 4.5 million of them we have an email address,” Perlstein said. “That’s why we feel that we can do this well, because we understand this demographic very, very well, having the largest database, which we’ve had in place for 23 years.
“Because we understand her really well and are in the best position because of our reach – we’re literally in every home in Australia.”
At the time of writing, the One Woman store fitout was still being completed, so images of the store were not available for inclusion in this feature.
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