THE OPENING last year of the fourth Home at Alfred Dunhill, a retreat in Central's Prince's Building with custom tailoring, Alfie's restaurant, a bar and fine wine reserve, aims to make buying a suit more pleasurable simply by offering other sybaritic attractions.
Alfred Dunhill has been in the vanguard of redefining luxury retail for men, launching Home in 2007 in Tokyo's Ginza district. Aside from a wide range of tailoring and accessories, there are bars, men's grooming services and medical services. The following year the company opended another Home, in Shanghai, in a beautifully restored neoclassical-style villa surrounded by a pretty English garden. In the same year, the British heritage brand opened Home at Bourdon House, the Duke of Westminster's former residence in London, which offers the exclusivity and discretion of one of London's traditional members-only gentleman's clubs together with the luxuries of modern retail and concierge services.
In London, a client can have a shirt fitted while watching sport on TV in the changing room. Then have a shave, buy a sweater and go for a drink in the bar before toying with the gadgets in the Discovery Room, a specially curated area offering the latest in technology. Half these London services are open to everyone and half are for members of Dunhill's club. London is the only city to have the members-only concept; elsewhere the facilities are open to all.
There are a variety of reasons to visit the Home in Shanghai, explains Robert Mancini, the managing director of Alfred Dunhill in Asia-Pacific. 'They could have a bespoke suit fitting from our tailor, Daniel [a Savile Row-trained master tailor], or come for lunch and a drink before having a haircut and shave.' The services and facilities available in each city vary slightly, but there are a lot of businessmen travelling between Hong Kong and Shanghai who regularly use the bar, restaurants, spa and personal concierge services.
Noone is more surprised than the people at Dunhill at how quickly this retailing concept took off. There are now plans to open others in Beijing, Manhattan and Dubai. About 75 per cent of the brand's business is in Asia, but it is rebuilding in Europe and the US.
Manhattan will be a difficult location because Ralph Lauren is already offering similar services in its former Rhinelander Mansion on Madison Avenue, which now focuses exclusively on men. Butlers serve snacks and drinks on silver trays while clients shop. There are chauffeur-driven limousines to whizz them around town; a new women's shop is across the road, meanwhile in-store there are concierge services, a replenishment service for favourite items, even a pet service to walk your dog while you shop.
Last autumn British menswear retailer Austin Reed opened the Q Club on the top floor of their Regent Street flagship in London. With a membership limit of 2,000, the club facilities are open to men and women.
Q Club has a bar, grooming salon and lounge area with WiFi. The witty decor features bowler hat and top hat lightshades and lots of memorabilia, including a photograph of a visit by the Beatles in the 1960s. Clients can hire suits - services used by their overseas members in particular -as well as order a bespoke suit.
'The idea is they relax and have a drink while we do the running around,' says Q Club manager Noor Abbas. Members also receive discounts on clothing and in-store spa treatments. 'People want to feel it is worth investing in a membership because they like to have exclusive treatment,' says Abbas.
A department store with a reputation like Harrods already has many luxuries, but six years ago it launched By Appointment, a concierge and private client shopping service. Two years ago the concept was taken further with By Appointment Beyond, available to high spending clientele. This is not just about shopping but arranging your life: from bespoke travel, property portfolio enquiries and even arranging parties. The company organised a party for 800 in the dinosaur hall at the Natural History Museum in London. The weirdest request, says Abigail Rainer, the fine jewellery, accessories and personal shopping director at Harrods, was for miniature Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.
Harrods is about to open the Penthouse for By Appointment. While it is not the clubby atmosphere of Home at Alfred Dunhill or Q Club, it does show how far brands will go to make shopping as pleasurable as possible.