I often pass The Old Vic Theatre in London en route to the studio. More accurately, I pass a queue of hopeful theatre-goers seeking tickets - most recently for Kevin Spacey's sold-out Clarence Darrow performance. I often want to stop and join the queue but alas have places to go, people to see...
It did however make me wonder... When did I last feel compelled (as someone who detests it) to queue, with butterflies of anticipation, for anything retail?
To answer this, I must transport myself to the early nineties, queueing on a Saturday morning outside the Patrick Cox store on Sloane Street London, becoming increasingly thrilled each minute I became closer to the reality of owning a pair of Wannabe loafers. Displayed in the V&A today is another pair in metallic snakeskin - the flamboyant sibling to my classic black pair; a timeless relic of 90s footwear, and fashion history.
Patrick Cox designed for Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano. The Wannabe was Patrick's diffusion range under his own brand which could be found, remarkably, on the high street.
The Wannabes themselves, the iconic Patrick Cox fleur-de-lys logo, and the luxurious silver and white shoe-box they came in (not forgetting the accompanying plastic shoe-horn inside)- remain fond and powerful brand memories for me. It was a purchase I had devotedly saved up for and the Patrick Cox brand experience didn't disappoint- its one I'm pleased to say captured me hook, line and sinker.
The only queues for stores I have witnessed recently (minus the ghastly Boxing Day sales- comfortably witnessed from a safe distance) was about a year ago outside a Louis Vuitton store in Hong Kong.
I assumed it would be to allow a celebrity undisturbed VIP shopping time, or perhaps a well-managed, crowd controlled sale. On closer examination it was neither. Simply a busy Saturday morning with customers making multiple purchases, in near desperation to own something with the famed, coveted "LV" monogram emblazoned on it.
As for those butterflies of anticipation? The last time I experienced this was at Jessica McCormack in London. For an even stronger sensation of this, I would need to look beyond retail and to a museum, in particular The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Qatar, designed by I. M. Pei. Beyond that, sensing real excitement as you step into a brand which is worth queuing for is sadly few and far between at the moment, and a safe 'samey' look prevails on the high street.
The increased footfall to sold out theatre shows and exhibitions, whether it's Clarence Darrow at The Old Vic or the Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty at the V&A, demonstrates a huge consumer thirst for experience, entertainment, social engagement and learning. We now live in an omnichannel retail world.
The importance of getting the consumer's heart racing; to experience, be entertained, to interact with their smartphones and to shop is a more important (and more exciting) opportunity and 'retail canvas' than ever before.
Despite being a big fan of retrospect (in retail strategy terms) for provenance, authenticity, and heritage- I would like to see more innovation in retail. I champion brave, bold, even cavalier- thinking and entrepreneurism. Patrick Cox saw an opportunity to be a pioneer and went for it- and I like that spirit.
Meanwhile, I hope Clarence Darrow does return. Perhaps a run of summer pop-up performances on the rooftop of a department store? I would definitely queue for that...