Fueled by the thought that he can’t be the only sneaker lover in his town, Vittorio Tomasella opened Habitat in March, in the historic center of Treviso in Italy’s Veneto region.
“Only the big retail chains were here, and it was not easy to find premium or limited-edition collaborations,” said Tomasella, whose personal sneaker collection exceeds 200 pairs. “This is not a money affair for me; I only do it for my passion.”
Designed like a collector’s underground sneaker room, the store’s furniture is mainly all black to put the focus on the shoes, which are illuminated by colored LED lights. The looks are from Puma, Nike, Asics, Converse and Diadora. And the store is one of the few in northern Italy to carry the Native brand.
The retailer admitted that the first month in business was tough. “Treviso is a small city,” Tomasella said. “People don’t necessarily dress as original as in big cities like Milan and Rome. Also, we don’t have that much tourism here.”
But some local press coverage has helped boost traffic. And to drive business, Tomasella is betting on buzzy new releases, such as the Puma by Rihanna sneakers and an upcoming Converse and John Varvatos collaboration.
Tomasella is also aiming to launch an e-commerce website by early August, but he plans to incorporate less-traditional channels, such as sneaker marketplace K’Lekt and mobile app Depop. “We have had a Depop account since week one and requests have been slowly rolling in, so I want that account to accompany the online store,” he said.
He also hopes to move ahead with a scouting service that helps sneakerheads to track down the one pair that got away. “You can ask me, and I will look and find them for you,” he said.
Depending on how the business performs, Tomasella is considering a second Habitat location, again in a smaller town. “The big cities already have specialized sneaker stores, so the small towns are a better target,” he said.