The British Invasion: New Yorkers Swarm Opening Day Extravaganza in the Race to the Topshop

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“The British are coming!” fashionistas chanted for months after London-based fast fashion retailer Topshop announced its first US store would open in New York.

Well, they’ve arrived.

Granted, it took them a while to get here: Topshop initially entered the American market by introducing only select pieces from its line at Barneys New York, and then delayed the opening of its first full-scale stateside flagship from Fall 2008 to April 2, 2009.  But judging from the lines that wrapped around the block at Broadway and Broome St. in Soho today (Recession?  What recession?), demand and expectations ran high – and many shoppers would probably agree that it was well worth the wait.

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Celebrities like Kate Moss, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Trachtenberg, and DJ Mark Ronson (yes, that’s the brother of Lindsay Lohan’s companion/girlfriend/pubilicity stunt/whatever, Samanatha Ronson) were on hand to celebrate the opening of the 40,000 square foot flagship, which stands at more than four stories and includes both the Topshop (women’s apparel and accessories) and Topman lines.

For those unfamiliar with Topshop, the brand falls somewhere between H&M and Banana Republic in style and price: some pieces are  irresistibly cute and inexpensive (like colorful men’s V-neck tees and short-sleeve shirts, two for $20), while others appeal to a more “aspirational” customer (take a $140 seersucker blazer).  The women’s pieces were particularly fashion-forward, adventurous, and stunning (the Kate Moss collection’s sparkly sequined dresses and dangerously spiked heels could only be described accurately as “fierce”).  But many of the men’s urban hipster pieces seemed lackluster, busy (gingham flannel shirt with striped tie?), and we’ve-seen-this-before (high-top shoes).  Overall though, most of the store made a strong showing at a reasonable price.

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Many of the day’s customers were enticed by gift cards (ranging from $5 to $500 and redeemable only on April 2) that had been handed out from Topshop vans throughout the city earlier this week.  Additional giftcards (and waterbottles – how thoughtful!) were handed out to shoppers waiting in line.

Topshop’s Soho neighbor, Madewell (the two stores are separated only by the upcoming J. Crew men’s store) also benefited from today’s crowds.  In addition to offering free doughnuts, Madewell created a window display in honor (or should we say, honour?) of the occasion: “A Royal Welcome to Our New Neighbour” and “All Hail the Jean.”  It’s nice to see some friendly retail/international relations instead of the usual cutthroat competition.

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Though New York remains the only Topshop outpost in the States for now, the success of today’s opening despite the suffering economy may be an indicator of the potential for nationwide expansion.  A British takeover of America has never sounded so lovely.

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