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VM Inspiration: Henley retailers shoulder their oars

Henley, basking in hot sunshine and swamped with rowers and enthusiasts during regatta week has, in the past, run a VM competition, with mixed results. This year, Henley’s stores seem to have been confined to the display of oars, an interesting VM exercise.

Independent store Louise Claire Millinery added a pair of diagonal carbon fibre oars, suspended by red ribbons, to its regular window, neatly focusing attention on the central display.

Biggie Best took this a step further by emulating the rowing club-logos of crossed blades in its home-store windows. Accompanied by nautical bunting these, sadly, don’t really enhance the sales signs or the merchandise in what is otherwise a classic retail fascia. But they do command attention very effectively from the far side of the street.

Menswear store Laurence spurned the oars and instead focused on a romantic aspect of the regatta with a painting of a tender couple on the glass. A female figure, shaded by a parasol, trails her hand in the river whilst her partner, handsome in boater and striped tie, protectively wraps around her shoulder. In the window are blazers, ties, and hats, allowing customers to achieve the look. Two oars sneak into the background.

No.27, at 27 Duke Street, stands a pair of wooden oars at either side of a menswear window featuring a canvas garden chair draped with men’s accessories. A landscape image of a rowing eight wearing pink (the team colour of Leander, the host Henley rowing club, but not their team stripe) fills the rear of the open-backed window. Body forms are arrayed in Henley-suitable blazers, with folded shirts and Panama hats across the window floor. I would love to see the merchandise on the floor raised up a little, perhaps on a shallow platform to make it look a little more special, but otherwise this works well, the oars framing the window display.

Womenswear independent Facy confines itself to a few framed images of long-past regattas among the merchandise. These would be much more compelling blown-up on a large scale as a backdrop.

Portuguese restaurant The Square has filled a miniature wooden boat with wine corks and bottles. Decorative cooked spider crab shells add a touch of colour and taken together they combine to suggest a lovely summer lunch while watching the regatta.

Wealth and investment manager Courtiers has a great graphic window, neatly employing rowing tropes linked to its financial product offer: celebrating, synchronizing, guiding, whilst stressing its Henley origins. A  strong themed window for a service-based business.

The Upstairs Downstairs tearooms has a mini-window showing a Thonet chair at a small circular table spread with a white damask cloth, and dressed with a cake stand filled with iced fancies, a boater and a photograph album open at a rowing team line-up. A charming tableau.

A trip to Henley to attend the regatta is a lovely summer day on the river, and it is charming that local stores make an effort to join in. This year’s ‘oars fest’ makes an insightful piece of VM, perhaps unintentionally showcasing how a single category of props might be used.

OK chaps: for next year, let’s make it sculls!

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