Milestone: Shop Work

Via Spiga puts its New York flagship to work.

Since opening the 1,500-sq.-ft. Soho store in 2008, the brand has used it not only as a retail venue but as a forum for testing new product, connecting with consumers and showcasing the full breadth of the Via Spiga offering.

“It has been a good [space] to test styles and present a lifestyle brand,” said Jay Schmidt, SVP and GM of image brands for parent firm Brown Shoe Co. “When you have a retail store, you hear what [customers] love and what they don’t love. You can look at reams of sales reports, but it’s totally different to hear it [directly] from the customers.”

For the brand’s creative director, Paola Venturi, the shop is a way to keep her finger on the pulse of what Via Spiga fans want. For instance, she can test out upcoming trends such as novelty materials, special nuances of existing colors and unique styling touches.

The shop’s sleek interior is inspired by the tony Via della Spiga retail avenue in Milan, which the brand is named after. Cobblestone floors are featured, along with a classic piazza with a working fountain. An assortment of outerwear, handbags, belts and other accessories are sold alongside the shoes.

The store shares inventory with the Via Spiga e-commerce site, which will be a major focus for the brand during the next several years, Schmidt said. “The website and the store work in tandem. We’re looking to continue to build [our site] and make the live experience at the New York store available online, so people all over the world can come to it.”

While Via Spiga at one time had several retail stores throughout the U.S. and abroad, the brand is now focused on its single New York location. The tough economy has halted plans to add more doors, including an announcement that the company would open 100 stores in China by 2012.

However, Europe is still a possibility. According to Schmidt, the brand’s business in Italy — where Venturi is based — is flourishing, with several new wholesale accounts added recently, making the country a prime location for a future store opening. “Anything is possible, but we don’t have concrete plans at the moment,” he said.

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