Polish retailer Reserved has just arrived in London, opening its first-ever UK store in Oxford Street.

Touted as a cross between H&M and Primark, the retail brand already has over 450 stores across 20 countries. But will Reserved appeal to UK consumers? More to the point – will it satisfy their cravings for an increasingly digital and social shopping experience?

Here’s a run-down of Reserved, and how it’s aiming to grab a slice of the £36bn that Brits spend on clothing every year.

Influence and hype

Unlike Zara, which first opened in the UK in 1998 with zero fanfare, Reserved has worked hard on generating hype about the brand’s arrival. One of its biggest wins has been to enlist Kate Moss as the face of its Autumn/Winter range, as well as asking her to appear at the store on the day of its launch.

This has undoubtedly generated a certain amount of buzz and interest about the brand. After all, Kate Moss is known for being highly influential in fashion circles – so her backing has definitely helped to ramp up Reserved’s cool-factor.

As well as Kate, Reserved has also worked with other social media influencers to get the word out. Popular YouTuber Tanya Burr was also in attendance on launch day, where she vlogged her entire experience. This meant that Burr’s 3m subscribers would also hear about the brand, and probably seek it out as a result of her influence.

Another fast fashion competitor

So what does Reserved offer?

Its product and price strategy seems pretty similar to the likes of Zara, with a focus on selling trend-lead pieces at affordable prices. Another similarity is its supply chain, with best-selling items reportedly able to be re-made in its factories within three weeks.

This type of ‘fast-fashion' certainly seems in-demand from consumers, with the likes of Boohoo and Missguided also reaping the rewards of the ‘stack them high, sell them cheap’ approach. 

However, one of the main reasons the aforementioned brands do so well is a clever social strategy, which successfully targets and engages a core demographic.

Can Reserved compete?

For one thing, the fact that Reserved’s target market is broader than the likes of Boohoo might mean it is unable to execute the same laser-targeted strategy. While Boohoo uses a distinct tone of voice to engage with social-savvy millennials, Reserved might have to work harder to communicate the appeal of its clothing – especially considering that is carries women’s, men’s and children’s ranges.

So far, Reserved’s social activity looks interesting enough – particularly on Instagram. Here it posts a mixture of both lifestyle and product-focused imagery. There is the hint that it could be veering towards more shoppable content, as it already nudges users towards its online shop by including product information in posts. 

One social channel it could definitely make more shoppable is Pinterest. While it is surprisingly fleshed out – including a number of well-crafted and inspirational boards – it is frustrating that it only includes links to its homepage, with no specific product information included. 

Another drawback in terms of social is that Reserved does not have a presence on Twitter – it last used its Polish account in 2015.

While this is not disastrous, it does mean that the retailer could be in danger of disappointing shoppers who are used to using the channel for help and customer service information. Similarly, it could also mean that resources for its other customer service channels, such as email and phone, could become stretched.

Does it measure up online?

So, social aside, let’s look at what Reserved has to offer in terms of ecommerce. 

Overall, it offers a decent enough online shopping experience. Reserved’s website design is rather basic, mainly using imagery to capture the user’s attention as opposed to copy or any kind of call-to-action. 

In fact, copy is minimal everywhere on the site - even on the product pages where you might expect product descriptions of some kind.

In comparison to the likes of Oasis or ASOS – this lack of content is disappointing. To me, it feels like the brand lacks personality. There’s no key USP to speak of other than its mildly 'Eastern Bloc aesthetic' (which is a trend popularised by fashion designers such as Gosha Rubchinskiy), and without Kate Moss’s face, it’d be hard pressed to feel inspired by its homepage. Again, this does suggest that Reserved is relying on other factors such as price and fast turnover to draw in consumers – something it has so far succeeded with in Poland and other European countries. 

That being said, there are things to appreciate about its online offering.

First, its product filter makes it easy to narrow down search. With a handy clear all button – it’s a quick and intuitive tool. It is rather basic, however, and doesn't appear until you click on the filter button (most retailers have faceted navigation permanently on display).

There's also the fact that the men's or women's categories do not have landing page - you can't click on men's in the header menu (only on the sub-categories, e.g. 'jeans'), which is a puzzling oversight.

Elsewhere, there is clear and helpful information about returns and shipping, conveniently offering both free shipping on orders over £30 and click and collect.

Its checkout process is slightly hit and miss. While it does include some nice features – such as the reassurance about returns and data privacy – it does not offer a guest checkout. Another annoyance is that the basket summary is hidden at the bottom of the page, meaning that shoppers do not have a visible reminder of their order.

In conclusion…

Interestingly, Reserved has opened its first UK store on the former site of BHS. 

With BHS’ closure, it’s clear that succeeding on the British high street is not an easy task in today’s volatile retail market. Other large retailers including American Eagle, Banana Republic, and Forever 21 have also shut down stores after failing to inspire consumers. 

So will Reserved succeed?

The brand has certainly done well to generate hype about its launch, but the true test will come once the fuss has died down. Its ecommerce site is fine, if a bit uninspiring, and its large and ever-changing inventory is a clear benefit.

However, with just one physical store in the UK, it will need to ramp up its focus on targeting online shoppers, especially on social media. So while it might catch the eye of consumers who generally look to the likes of Zara and H&M for fast and affordable fashion – it will perhaps take more to capture their loyalty long-term.   

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 20 September, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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