West Elm opened it’s first UK site today in Tottenham Court Road.

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I have to admit that I have not shopped a West Elm in the US but I am a huge fan of their owners Williams Sonoma and there is clearly a standard and attention to detail that permeates the whole company.

The first thing you recognise is the difference in the staff attitude and approach. There were loads of excess teams there as you would expect on opening day but what was lovely was the interaction they had with the customer. It was one of genuine excitement to be opening here in the furniture/homewares heartland of London and also a clear understanding of soft selling.

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The other element that translates so competitively from the US model is their ability to catalogue and visually merchandise. They manage to combine these two elements to create wonderful stories which are stimulating and enjoyable to shop. Every corner has something to discover and whilst some product is familiar to me, lots is new and interesting. They are also pretty competitive price wise at the mid level range with clear intro key prices as well as some at the luxury end. In support of all this is a great tone of voice that fits their brand well keeping signage and communication something simple that makes you smile.

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At the centre of the shop is a living wall which is something that has been done many times before, but it is still attractive. It adds colour, vibrancy and a sense of outdoor space which helps to define a relaxed tone within. The natural wall wraps around the central staircase which leads downstairs to a more conventional home floor but with nice room sets and an ordering zone which was very efficient when I put it to the test.

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The fun zone upstairs is their market area which has a funky coffee shop, a mixture of kitchenware and food plus some well thought out toiletries. Studded throughout the whole ground floor were little highlights which showed product combinations and stimulated nice ideas to enable visualisation of the product in a home environment.

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It will be interesting to see how this first foray goes for the Williams Sonoma team. I believe they are looking at other sites for their other brand – Pottery Barn. I personally think it is a welcome addition to the UK high street and I wish them well.

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