New Kings On the Block: Part 1
Authors: Lisa Smith, Interior Designer and Joanna Frame, Marketing
Having recently moved into the HKX building in King’s Cross we have slowly been exploring the area and getting to grips with all it has to offer. Over this series we will reveal our favourite retail finds so far!
Focus on: Waitrose, Granary Square
Waitrose King’s Cross, Granary Square opened in 2015, and is one of its largest shops in Central London (29,000 sqft). It was the second retailer to open at the transformation of King’s Cross. The building itself is set in a restored Victorian train shed, where the architecture of original brickwork, cast iron structure and roof trusses are all on show. The shop seems very at home with much of the surrounding architecture in the King’s Cross area, from St Pancras station to the cobble streets, which certainly provides a great juxtaposition to the Havas King’s Cross (HKX) building and other modern developments in Pancras Square.
Our favourite aspect of the Waitrose Granary Square building is the many services the shop offers, including a juice and smoothie bar, a wine bar and even a cookery school. Waitrose has taken great care to innovate within the store, bringing something new to King’s Cross and becoming a food and drink destination. It seems it’s possible to visit the store and do no grocery shopping at all!
However, will these services appeal to customers using the space? Although Waitrose will no doubt benefit from the many blue-chip businesses inhabiting the area, what about the art students of Central St Martins next door, or the local residents who may worry that the shop is too exclusive. Certainly, for local workers or commuters, the supermarket will be more of a place to dwell and enjoy foods or pick up lunch, rather than to purchase a full weekly shop. The shop caters for these shorter shopper missions by providing services such as the juice bar, bakery and food-to-go displays immediately on entrance as well as a large number of self-service kiosks. There is also a plethora of seating options both in-store and outside on the terrace where the canal provides the perfect backdrop to enjoy lunch.
Interestingly, for such a large retail space there aren’t actually many products on sale. Waitrose treats the space like a showroom, with wide aisles and high ceilings giving a great sense of space within the shop. It seems great care has been taken in the selection of gondola ends, where they exist, using them to create theatre and story-telling around certain products or services. For example, recipe cards, cookbooks and herbs were displayed on the meat counter, inspiring customers to try out something new. Our favourite however was the cake customisation station in the bakery department. Here, customers are able to use built-in tablets to design and buy their own cake. However, it should be noted when we went to try it (we all love a slice of cake here at Conran!), the screen was out of action. If retailers are to use this type of tech, it’s important that it actually works.
Another interesting aspect of the Waitrose shop is its ability to hold events. When we visited, a jazz night was being promoted in the wine bar, which only further cements Waitrose’s aim to be a destination shop. While it is great Waitrose is trying to interact more with its customers, it made us question who would attend this, as footfall outside working hours is so low in the area. For what reason are they trying to capture the after-work crowd…shopping? Perhaps it would be more meaningful if after the jazz night, Waitrose offered a grocery collection service therefore allowing its customers to fed, watered, entertained and sent home with their shopping!
Hopefully, however, evening footfall will increase over the coming years as redevelopment of the area continues, particularly when Coal Drops Yard is completed next year — the topic of our next blog, so stay tuned!