Retail choice: Birkenstock

There was a time when sandals were very untrendy, conjuring up images of middle-aged men wearing them with socks. Yet Birkenstock has created a comeback for this style of footwear. Its range is ever-expanding, with 100 different styles, colours and textures, and Heidi Klum creating a designer collection.

Its newest dedicated outlet is the flagship store on Neal Street, Covent Garden. This street is something of a mecca for boutique shoe shops, so it was a brave step to go head-to-head in this buzzing area. From the outside, the shop is very low key and minimalist as befits a brand with German heritage. Inside, the theme continues with a stark yet stylish presentation of the products themselves. Getting them young is a definite focus of the store, with the kids' range allowing the whole family to be 'Birkenstocked'. There's a certain type of consumer attracted by this footwear, and the mums with kids who were in the store when I visited were definitely of the Sloaney variety.

So what makes this store and product proposition so successful? It has hit the nail on the head with comfortable, practical design that uses bespoke processes and materials to create the ultimate sandal. And if the humble sandal still doesn't convince you, there's also a small range of shoes and boots.

- Design agency Dogfish Solution.


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