When I began to write this article I had originally named it ‘The Problem with Flannels’, however this title carries far too many negative connotations, and that’s not the overriding intention of this particular editorial.

I also want to stress that this article is based solely on my own experience of Flannels within the city of Liverpool, and its effect on the luxury retail market as a whole across the city.

And before I go any further, I also want to make it clear that I myself shop at Flannels, mostly because I have to, but we’ll get to that later!

Now, you really have to respect the entrepreneurial gusto of Mike Ashley, and one can only admire his burgeoning retail empire, now known as the Fraser Group. However for all his success, there have been many casualties.

So here’s how it works, Flannels rock up in a town or city, and due to their mass buying power they can pretty much take it over within a few short years.

The smaller independent stores simply can’t match the enormous range of brands and styles that Flannels have to offer, nor can they secure those all important exclusivity deals.

The inevitable result is the closure of the independent stores, many of which have been around for decades.

And once their gone, Flannels own the city, and hey presto, everyone shops at Flannels! And what about those stores that manage to stay open? That’s easy, the juggernaut that is the Fraser Group simply buy them out, and that’s it, Flannels own the fucking street!

Prior to Flannels opening their seven story Flagship store in Liverpool City Centre, they were based (just a few minute’s walk away) at the city’s L1 shopping centre. And despite being spread over three floors, the staff always managed to provide a truly personalised shopping experience. The lads who worked there knew me, I knew them, and more importantly they always knew what I was looking for.

Since moving to the new store all that has changed. Gone are the knowledgeable lads who lived and breathed quality clobber. They’ve been replaced with Zero Hours contract staff that offer nothing more than a soulless, ‘Department Store Style’ shopping experience.

I don’t blame the staff one bit, in fact most of them are really friendly, the problem is that the place is just too big. It’s almost impossible to strike up a long lasting rapport with any of the staff, and for me personally, it completely erodes the luxury shopping experience.

In this instance, Flannels seem to have totally forgotten the golden rule of sales, ‘People buy People’!

When I go out to buy a garment that costs well over a grand (or two), I don’t expect to have to run the gauntlet of the ground floor Cosmetics department! Or the seemingly endless amount of escalators, and when all said and done, this isn’t Primark!

Don’t get me wrong, the new store is grandiose throughout, not to mention well stocked. However I think the Fraser Group have got this one totally and utterly wrong. And from the customers perspective they’ve completely misunderstood what a luxury shopping experience is all about.

Now with most of the Independent stores gone, I don’t really have much of a choice other than to shop at Flannels. There again, I could always shop at Tessuti, or maybe even Scotts? But what’s the point, Fraser Group own them now too. So no matter which way I turn, my hard earned cash is seemingly destined for Mike Ashley’s back pocket!

And there you have it folks, that’s the Flannels effect, the unstoppable juggernaut, coming to a town or city near you!

Flannels Liverpool. Photo by Joas Souza