Showcasing British brands in immersive space.
As well as showcasing a variety of British brands the first Brityard store in central London is creating an immersive experience for shoppers involving a programme of events aimed at bringing the brands to life for visitors.
Having initially created an online marketplace for brands based in the UK during the Covid-19 lockdowns the plan evolved into adding a physical presence that would create a flexible multi-channel operation with the potential to be rolled out to various locations in the UK as well as overseas.
Lara Chant, co-founder of Brityard, says: “We’ve had the emergence of English wine, gin, chocolate and beers but there has been no one bringing these incredible brands and people together in one space. There has been no single go-to destination.”
Lara Chant, co-founder of Brityard.
The maiden Brityard store opened on London’s Regent Street in November encompassing 2,000 sq ft spread over two floors, with the retail element on the ground floor while the basement serves as the bar and events space where a curated programme of events are being developed. Around 40 brands are represented in the outlet including Cheesegeek, Gusbourne, Origin Coffee, Rare Tea Company, Melin Tregwynt, BEEN London and Marleybones.
“The brands are initially mainly around food and beverage as we wanted to make the first site as recognisable to most people as possible but Brityard is much wider and we’ve just signed up some fashion brands. The intention is to be fully immersive multi-sector, multi-channel and multi-category,” she explains.
The model created for the business is to offer ‘subscriptions’ to the brands of a six-month contract for space in the store that comprises a fixed-fee and a commission on sales. The brands deal with their own inventory management while Brityard handles the transactions, provides the staff, and deals with the rest of the administration elements of operating a physical space.
Many brands have expressed an interest in being involved and for many it represents a route to moving beyond their current digital-only models and opening up a physical presence. “Many brands were online-only with the odd pop-ups such as Cheesegeek that was an online subscription brand and had looked at physical but never quite got there. We’re able to do the things like fit-outs and store infrastructure elements while they can continue with creating their products. Brityard is a way for these brands to incubate and grow as well as collaborate and create new ideas with the other brands in the store,” says Chant.
The early results from the Regent Street store are “beyond expectations” and the engagement in-store is 10-times that achieved on the online marketplace but she admits there is much experimentation still taking place in these early stages of the unit in order to develop a model that can be scaled-up to further locations.
Where the experimentation is very much continuing is with the immersive element in the basement of the store: “We’ve had music nights and are looking to bring in wine tastings, cheese events, pottery workshops and fashion launches. It’s more than just a retail offering as we’re bringing the brands to life. The products are not just on the shelf but there is also an opportunity to meet the founders and see their passion.”
“It’s about creating a (MVP) minimum viable product involving testing and seeing what is the right configuration of the store is before scaling. We want to open many Brityards including overseas. In our minds we’re creating something that is positive and champion’s diversity and inclusion. It’s not about being British but being in the UK for people who want to share their talents,” says Chant.
The initial discussions around the future of Brityard stores involves Crown Estates, the landlord of Regent Street, about either extending the existing six-month lease on the outlet or moving to another larger unit. Chant is aware that the flexibility of the proposition means it could well be suitable for many locations and store sizes as she cites the prospect of airport stores and Bicester Village, which would give Brityard exposure to an international customer base.
The other aspect the company is working on is how to create a multi-channel organisation that links its original digital marketplace – that has taken a bit of a back seat recently – with the burgeoning physical element. “The focus has been on the physical experience but we’ll figure out how to bring them together.”