Brace yourself Brisbane, Topshop is opened and our city may never be the same again.
Topshop’s opening in Brisbane this week has caused quite the frenzy. Not just from shoppers who lined up overnight to snap up the brand’s cool Brit street style clothes or from fashionistas who were left off the VIP opening party list – but from independent shop owners who are worried the fashion giant will gobble up all the fashion sales to be made in the city.
So who is responsible for bringing the British superstore to Brisbane?
Hilton Seskin is the man behind Topshop in Australia. He is a passionate and committed big picture retailer who famously ‘stalked’ Topshop’s billionaire owner, Sir Phillip Green, to win the Australian licensing rights in 2010.
You get the feeling if Hilton wants to make something happen he will – but not because he’s a tyrant, because his love for the brand and for bricks and mortar fashion retailing is his driving force.
This is a man who doesn’t just rely on a team of market research data to tell him where the best place is to open a new shop – he hits the pavements himself to talk to locals about their shopping habits and where they would like to see a new store.
“When we were looking at opening in Brisbane I walked around the city and talked to people and asked them where they would like to see a Topshop,” he said. “Most of them said not on the mall, that’s where Mum shops, they wanted their own place.”
He didn’t just talk to them, he listened – Topshop and Topman’s location, on the corner of Elizabeth and Albert Streets in the city is unrecognizable as the old Border’s book store.
“Converting a boring old bookshop into an iconic retail outlet is a big job, there is a lot of work that has gone into it but it has exceeded my expectations. We wanted to give the Brisbane community something different, we based the design on our LA store, it’s bright and airy and feels really good.”
Seskin is big on “touch and feel” – that’s why he’s pouring so much into his Topshop and Topman stores in Australia and why his 30-strong Glue Store chain is leading the way in “shopper experience” with in-house coffee bars, music stations, bespoke denim tailors and a Miss Selfridge store all added to his Super Glue store.
Topshop and Topman in Brisbane have luxurious personal shopper spaces staffed by Brisbane stylists who will offer cupcakes, coffee, beer and a comfy chair to discuss your wardrobe needs.
“We encourage people to shop, these are the kinds of experiences you can’t buy online,” he said.
“We have gone through tough times, people are holding back and sometimes they need a reason to shop – Topshop is affordable but we also talk about quality and value for money and we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of fashion.
“Topshop is the only high street chain that shows at London Fashion Week to critical acclaim.”
He also believes these are the reasons the megastore will be a help to local retailers.
“On our own, I don’t think we can have any negative effect, I don’t think we will cannibalise the local market, I can’t see us having any immediate impact on individuals or individual designers,” he said.
Even before Topshop opened their doors this week, several prominent city retailers closed theirs, all citing the huge retail rents in the city as the main factor.
“Everywhere we have opened we have improved foot traffic and helped local retailers, people need a reason to shop.”
Collaborations with emerging designers and big name fashion stars is something Topshop do brilliantly and a collab with a Brisbane designer is not out of the question for Seskin.
“We have our Kate Moss collaboration launching in April next year and then we will start thinking about other collaborations but it’s something we are looking for all the time,” he said.
“These are challenging markets and tough retail times, bringing something different is what excites me, next year we open Topshop in Perth and another big store in Melbourne – to me this is not just about money, it’s more about doing things you love.
“And it never gets boring.”