Bye bye Barbour

The empty shop unit below was for a relatively short while Warsaw’s central, possibly only Barbour emporium. That fact that it failed miserably only goes to show how tricky the retail business can be for the uninitiated or unlucky.

For those who don’t know what Barbour is, it is J Barbour & Sons, a British clothing and accessories company by appointment to her Majesty that has been going since the days of Henry V and is primarily known for its waxed jackets as worn by pheasant shooters and other members of the landed gentry. They have loads of pockets where you can shove dead rabbits and empty cartridges and as with many things of that ilk they moved from field to city as a must-have fashion accessory. It got to the point that you’d see far more of them being worn by people in Chelsea who drove Range Rovers but never tested their off road capabilities any more than the kerb outside Waitrose than you would on a farmer or game-hand.

This should have meant that the shop in question would not now be an empty shell but would be handing out coffee to those waiting in the queue outside. You only have to look at the way Hunter wellies or anything by Burberry have taken off here to know there’s an appetite for British outdoorsy equipment. Couple that with a location close to a major shopping centre, Zlote T, and to other traffic generators like PKiN, Intercon and so forth and on paper it might have seemed a no brainer of a business decision.

Unfortunately, they made two mistakes. Firstly, they chose their stock badly. One thing that would have sold by the truck-load would be Barbour wellies, or similar and then any other items that looked great but didn’t cost a fortune. Sadly for them, they tried to set it up as a high class boutique and filled it with high price clothing. Might possibly have worked if they had located it inside one of the “Arab style” boutique markets such as Klif on Okapowa has become but instead they chose Emilii Plater. The little run of shops in which it was located is far from luxury. Emilii Plater itself, while being undoubtedly a prime location, is a dog’s breakfast of street and will remain so until someone decides to actually do the work it so badly needs. These shops are pure old style run down 60’s crap and the tenant mix is so completely not Barbour that the place was sticking out like a sore thumb from the minute it opened. You’d be surprised at how many potentially great retail units I’ve seen fail over the years. There is some truth in the saying “location, location, location” and it is especially foolish to be off pitch by a short distance. Some of the deadest places on earth for retail sales are some of the closest to prime prime prime locations. You might try to convince yourself that all those people from Zlote T are going to just pop 3 minutes around the corner and find your shop…..but they don’t and they never will.

They had a massive sale recently, 50% off I think, and I was slightly tempted to wander in and see what deals might be had but the place was, as always, completely empty and the sales assistant looked very close to suicide so I decided not to bother. I’m not sure I could stand having a Polish sales lady try to explain to me what Barbour was all about anyway. Funnily enough, if they’d had wellies I WOULD have bought some but they didn’t so I got some Swedish jobs at 50% off in Decathlon instead!

Hold the front page! An Englishman who survived more than 10 years in Poland without a pair of wellies!!

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6 thoughts on “Bye bye Barbour

  1. Thing with Barbour is you buy it once (maybe twice) in your life. My Barbour jacket is like 99 years old (I bought it on my 30th birthday – there, you know how old I am). My Barbour wellies, an indispensible part of any expedition to the end of my road, are also from when King Edward VIII was on the throne.

    Second thing is price v. exchange rate. As any fule kno, you buy these things in London as soon as the zloty edges slightly south of seven to the pound. At four and half, the price expressed in zlotys at the Warsaw Barbour shop is so absurd you can afford to fly business class to Heathrow, buy your Barbour at the hilariously overpriced Harrods emporium in T5, fly home to Warsaw and still have enough zlotys left over to buy a decent kebab on Marszałkowska.

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