London safari: community & fandom
What's a discovery tour?
This brief tour of London’s West End takes in just a few of the examples of brand stores being used to support a community of fans. From high-end to mass market and from luxury labels to Gen Z cult followers, retailers are seizing
the opportunity to turn fans into advocates and ambassadors, in the process using their stores to build a stronger relationship with their most loyal customers.
Rapha – 85 Brewer Street, W1F 9ZN
Starting with a coffee at the Rapha Clubhouse on Brewer Street, this was the cycling brand’s first permanent store in London.
As the name suggest, the store doubles as a café and fan community hub.
It hosts events, demonstrations, programmes of live races such as the Tour de France, plus is the start or end point for organised rides for customers.
Directions: Walk down Piccadilly (5-10 minutes)
Alexander McQueen – 27 Old Bond Street, W1S 4QE
The top floor of the luxury fashion brand’s London flagship used to be a purely VIP area. It has been reimagined as a showcase for next-generation designers. Mimicking McQueen’s creative studio, the space hosts talks and workshops amid an array of archive pieces to reveal the brand’s working processes.
Directions: Walk up to Bond Street Station.
Turn left into Duke Street (10 minutes)
Leica – 64 Duke Street, W1K 6JD
German photography brand Leica opened its new Mayfair flagship in 2019. As well as its full range of optic products, the store also hosts the Leica Gallery with exhibitions of the work of renowned photographers. For the brand’s dedicated fans, the store also offers Leica Akademie with a programme of workshops and training events.
Directions: Just around the corner, back on Oxford Street
Adidas – 425 Oxford Street, W1C 2PG
The sports brand’s new London flagship is most notable for its use of tech. There are over 100 digital touchpoints in the store, all helping to engage Adidas’s loyal fanbase. The main app can be used to check stock and request items in-store. Changing room mirrors screen extra information on your potential purchase. There are a host of personalisation options too. What reinforces fan community most is the store’s Hype Wall where sneakerheads can register the latest merchandise. The Base area is used for sporting challenges and product launches.
Directions: Head east along Oxford Street, beyond Oxford Circus and turn left into Soho Square (20 minutes walk – I’d jump on a bus)
Nandos – 10 Frith Street W1D 3JF
South African global chicken chain Nandos is fostering community around music with a high-tech recording studio in its Soho branch. It is the centrepiece of the Nando’s Music Exchange which holds workshops, events and provides mentoring. The initiative has worked with artists such as Ella Eyre and Stormzy
and has proved so successful that the Soho studio is booked up for months in advance.
Directions: Walk to the bottom of Frith Street, turn left to Cambridge Circus and then right onto Charing Cross Road (10 minutes)
Razer – 53 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 7PZ
Headquartered in the US and Singapore, this is the first European flagship for the specialist gaming brand. With a motto of ‘touch, play, stay’ the two-storey space focuses on interactive entertainment. As well as a retail area, fans can try out Razer products in the play-test area. The basement contains gaming booths and hosts weekly tournaments, workstations and boot camps.