I had a real treat yesterday, a tantalising guided tour around The Conran Store at the north end of Marylebone High Street, by the very passionate Peter Prescott.
The store was originally a stable building and offers – in their words – three floors of elegant, contemporary furnishings, famous design classics, vintage ‘one-off’ pieces of furniture and practical and fun accessories.
Terence Conran was of course the first of the family to spot the potential in the neglected Marylebone High Street, now a thriving and desirable shopping area, which has retained its charming village atmosphere. Today his son, Jasper Conran, brings a new vibrancy and urban cool to the product range and the store experience.
Our Head of Design and I rushed across in a taxi to make sure we were there on time and then seemed to simultaneously relax and smile as we walked through the door in to a brightly lit treasure trove of joyful and beautiful items that you just knew would add the same little moments of brightness and joy to your own life. Peter called it “the Conran style of life”. It reminded me of the most basic principle of effective brand and shopper marketing, the selling of dreams and possibilities. I won’t be buying the £25,000 sofa but, like so many of the shoppers who visit the store, I’ll walk out with several items I never had any intention of buying before I went in. Probably that nicely designed potato peeler, the wobbly, glass encased lobster and a mini surfboard. I get a piece of the dream at a price tag that is justified by the smile these lovely things will bring, every day.
By the time you reach the third floor, the furniture and accessories have such a hand-picked feel that you actually start to believe you’re in Jasper Conran’s apartment. So you naturally find the time to go to the café and have a cappuccino and a slice of honey and pecan cake, to enjoy ‘the Conran style of life’ for a little while longer. There are even some lovely coffee table books on the wooden tables for customers to browse. Sigh.
If ever there was a shining example of how to connect a brand to shoppers through the store experience itself, this is it. It is wonderfully curated and eclectic, in a visually stimulating environment that draws you around every display on every floor. I challenge anyone to visit and leave without buying something, or without promising to yourself to return when you have more time to enjoy it.