Who, at some stage in their life, has not owned or at least coveted one of those brightly colored lambs’ wool sweaters from Ponzano Veneto, Italy-based United Colors of Benetton? For a while they were de rigeur as part of any upwardly mobile wardrobe, then seemed to disappear somewhat, as fast fashion brands like Uniqlo came to the fore. Lately, however, Benetton has been taking steps toward center stage once more, opening eye-catching flagship stores in high profile metropolitan locations.
One such city to receive this treatment is London. The brand’s previous store at Oxford Circus closed in the fall of 2017 (reportedly due to high rent), with a sign in the window reading, “We’ll be back in the spring.” It was tempting at this point to imagine that would be it, but in March 2018, the new store opened a few hundred yards to the east, boasting three floors and spread across 16,145 square feet.
The first thing shoppers anywhere near this store are likely to remark upon is the exterior. Michele Trevisan, Global Head of Retail Design for Benetton, explains, “When the project started, the idea was not just to do another flagship store but to create a brand amplifier.”
At street level, this means the window is filled with three arches, each of which is just shy of 50 feet in height, which are effectively giant LED-studded screens. Content on the much smaller displays in store can appear on these, too, but for the most part, they are about swirling colors, which is particularly effective at night.
Trevisan says there were three drivers for the store’s interior: “Attract, explore and inspire.” To this end, each of the three floors, kids’ in the basement, womenswear on the ground floor and both menswear and women’s on the first floor, offers plenty of room to move around. The rich palette of materials, from ash wood for the mid-shop furniture to metal mesh, as well as an interpretation of a classical Italian cassettoni wood ceiling, promotes a mass-market luxury feel.
But this is also a digital store. “[The] mobile payment system, thanks to the use of WiFi tablets and mobile p-o-s, allows payment via mobile and card only, potentially everywhere in the store, reducing the time spent queuing,” says Trevisan. He also highlights “three digital interactive tables showcasing content on selected products.” Shoppers can wave garments with RFID tags over the table to make lifestyle and product information appear, based on the choice that has been made.
This attractive and state-of-the-art store was “a one-off project centered around the uniqueness of the location,” says Trevisan. If the feel of what has been done in London can be replicated elsewhere, Benetton could be on the way back.