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Eat, Drink And Shop Luxury

What goes better with a leisurely afternoon of shopping than a leisurely stylish lunch? According to Burberry, nothing (except, perhaps, more shopping afterwards).

With the opening of the Thomas’s cafe (named after the company’s founder) in the retailer’s Regent Street flagship store in London earlier this year, fashion house Burberry entered into the highly competitive arena of high-end dining within high-end luxury retail spaces.

So far, the move seems to be paying off. Not only did the opening grab media attention from the fashion world, but the cafe is also starting to garner rave reviews on Time Out, TripAdvisor and OpenTable for London eateries. Described by some as “Haute British” cuisine, the cafe offers a rotating menu, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients from U.K. farmers and artisans. Popular dishes, according to Women’s Wear Daily, include lobsters and chips, cured salmon with scrambled eggs and Mersea rock oysters. As luxury brands seek to promote a luxury lifestyle far beyond the goods offered on their shelves, it seems the stomach may be the way to their consumers’ hearts.

Known for its sophisticated “preppy” aesthetic and heavy use of a signature plaid motif in many of its trench coats, scarves and bag designs, Burberry has long been a go-to favorite of the stylish elite. Chief Creative Officer and CEO Christopher Bailey told Glamour that he “wanted to create a space where our customers can spend time relaxing and enjoying the world of Burberry in a more social environment.” And he seems to have achieved that goal.

Not only is the cafe a stylish eatery, it also adjoins a new “gifting” section in the store — think the Cracker Barrel gift shop with a much, much (much, much, much) higher ticket price and fashion sense. The gifting area, as WWD notes, offers home furnishings, games, fine stationery, travel accessories (including canvas tote bags printed with a London map pattern exclusive to the Regent Street store) and a monogramming service that allows customers to have flat leather goods customized within an hour.

Burberry is certainly not the only cook in this particular kitchen. The art of opening fine eateries in retail spaces has a long and storied past, although in recent years it seems that certain luxury brands have really been stepping up their game. As Details points out, Ralph Lauren has a restaurant in its New York Polo flagship store, Roberto Cavalli opened Cavalli Ibiza Restaurant & Lounge in the summer of 2013 and Bergdorf’s opened Goodman’s Bar in its men’s store in 2014.

So, why are these fashionable eateries popping up more and more at high-end retailers and department stores? It may have something to do with the idea of millennials and their desire for experiences over goods alone. As the millennial generation comes into their buying power, they are likely to dictate more and more trends in the world of retail. Dining out is certainly high on their list of valued activities and something they would prefer to do over shopping alone.

These fancy fine dining spots aren’t catering exclusively to the 18–35 set; they also speak to a growing desire for retailers to keep consumers in their retail environments longer. With connected devices making it easier and easier for shoppers to comparison shop and head to a nearby competitor to find a better deal, creating a warm and welcoming environment that urges customers to slow down, look up from their phones (even if it’s just for a brief moment between bites) and enjoy the shopping experience they’re having, instead of seeking out the next best thing all the time.

The world of high fashion, it should be noted, isn’t the only one getting in on the food game. Kohl’s announced earlier this fall that it would be launching a series of eateries at select department store spaces in the coming months. “You want the customer to dwell more,” Jon Grosso, executive vice president and director of stores for Kohl’s, said in a statement. “You want them to spend time in the building.”

But for Burberry, the opening of its in-store cafe is only one in a series of moves to create more exciting retail experiences in its retail spaces. As The Guardian reported, after sales fell by nearly 20 percent in China in the first half of 2015, shares of the luxury brand fell to a near three-year low at the end of September. Not only did sales slow down in China (a country that overall has been experiencing a lack of appetite for luxury goods as of late), but U.K. sales slumped as well.

However, after some steep cuts to bonuses, travel expenses and a shift in marketing direction, Burberry’s finance director, Carol Fairweather, said sales had risen in China and improved in Hong Kong in the six weeks since the end of September. In-store events were a major component to the change in marketing strategy, as well as increasing the speed of delivery for exclusive products to attract more local shoppers in Hong Kong.

“It is an uncertain and challenging world out there, so we are focusing on what we can control, such as great marketing,” said Fairweather.

It will be interesting to see, in the coming months, if the brand will seek to enhance its international locations with a little fine dining.

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