Thursday, October 15, 2009

Take a Two Minute Trip to the Arctic

Who knew freezing your butt off could be so much fun?

When I heard that National Geographic had opened a store on London’s Regent Street, I thought:
It will be worthy
It will be well done
But exciting retail?
I doubt it.
Well, I was wrong.

Yesterday, on the way to look at kitchen counters at John Lewis (speaking of worthy but boring retail) I stumbled into the Nat Geo emporium and had a blast – literally.

Of all the things to do and see in this huge, glossy, dare I say it, sexy store, it’s hard to beat taking a spin in the testing chamber where you can try out your expedition gear in simulated extreme weather conditions while a thermo camera takes a pictures of your body’s temperatures. Even though I was in street clothes, the friendly member of staff was happy to let me have a go. Oh yes, it was super windy and cold but where else in London can you take a two minute trip to the Arctic?

In addition to the testing chamber, the store is filled with nifty products that would be great to have whether you are venturing down the block or around the globe. I found the shoes, boots, bags and backpacks particularly seductive. As you would expect from Nat Geo, there are inspiring pictures everywhere, a gallery, a space for presentations, a section for children, and a groovy looking café (the only busy place in the store) with world food and music.

It’s hard to imagine that this enormous store filled with relatively esoteric stuff will make lots of money but as an exciting retail destination and as an expression of the brand, it is a runaway success. In the guest book for the store’s current special exhibition on Finland, a young visitor, who obviously had a great time on his visit, put it this way: “I LOVE National Geographic” and that about sums it up.

The National Geographic store can be found at 83 – 87 Regent Street. There is another store in Singapore.

The photo of the testing chamber taken by Philip Meech & Tim Kavanagh is from the store’s website.

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