This week in Italy, shops, restaurants and hair salons opened for business following a 10-week confinement implemented to arrest the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The country’s fashion industry accounts for 5 percent of gross domestic product — so it’s critical to get retail up and running as the sector starts to plot recovery. Business association Confcommercio said that consumer spending on clothing is expected to shrink by 20% this year — to the tune of around $13 billion.
Turnover in the footwear sector alone fell by an average of 38.4% in the first quarter — with orders down 46.2%, according to Assocalzaturifici, the official body for the Italian footwear sector.
As stores reopen this week with positive messages of hope and humanity in their windows, they are operating in a dramatically changed climate.
Security protocol in Italy is a complicated affair as it is determined by region. In Milan — located in the Lombardy region, of the areas most severely affected by the virus — the wearing of masks both in the the street and in stores is mandated, along with three-foot social distancing and regular sanitation of business premises.
Retailers opened with strict compliance to these rules, operating crowd-control systems for entry and often implementing appointment systems as an additional precaution. Here’s how the situation played out at Rinascente, Giuseppe Zanotti, Fendi, Casadei and for independent designer Nicolò Beretta.
The department store group reopened Monday to lines in its Milan location, located beside the city’s famous Duomo cathedral. To lure customers in, there were promotions of up to 60 percent. Since the start of the pandemic, all the windows both in the Milan store, and in Rome, have been displaying brightly colored illustrations. Now these have been augmented with new slogans such as ‘Let’s bring out hearts back into the heart of our cities’ and ‘We are back’.
“Never has the name of our company represented our feelings and our desire to come back more than it does today,” said CEO Pierluigi Cocchini in a statement released to FN. “Rinascente, now more than ever is a truly meaningful name to convey the fact of being born again.”
He added that complying with government safety measures had been paramount. Customer entry numbers were monitored via security guards at the door using apps and staff underwent temperature checks and were issued with personal protection equipment. In addition, shifts were staggered and training conducted on the management of suspected cases of the virus.
The company confirmed to FN today that “visitor numbers in the Duomo store yesterday were “excellent.”
The label reopened boutiques across the country Monday, celebrating with colorful window displays at its Palazzo Fendi flagship in Rome. They featured heart shaped sketches by late creative director Karl Lagerfeld with the message, ‘We have been missing you’.
All stores in Italy reopened Monday said the brand in a statement, noting access had been limited to allow for appropriate social distancing. Masks were given to both customers and staff. Shoppers were also provided with disposable gloves and pop socks for trying on shoes. A representative told FN that many customers took advantage of a newly implemented appointment service that allows customers to pre-select product online and book slots to try it on in store.
Arianna Casadei revealed that she had personally contacted all store managers prior to Monday’s opening — and she remains in close contact with them. “It’s important to treat people [well],” added the daughter of creative director Cesare Casadei, who serves as the brand’s communications and marketing director.
Employees have similarly close relationships with their customers — and the manager of the Milan boutique relayed a heartwarming story about a client who came in to buy a pair of special shoes for her first post- confinement date. She purchased the brand’s V Celebrity Blade heel sandals in white.
Casadei explained that customers had also been calling the stores to ask for appointments — and that gloves, masks and pop socks were provided for clients. In terms of the shoes themselves, they are cleaned with specialist products used in the San Mauro Pascoli factory in order to ensure proper sanitization without damaging the leather.
Nicolò Beretta serves as creative director of both L’Autre Chose (which opened its three Italian boutiques Monday by appointment) and his own label Giannico.
At Giannico, he is celebrating the end of lockdown with the launch of his spring ’20 campaign featuring model Chiara Scelsi — who made her runway debut with Chanel in 2016 and has since appeared in campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana and H&M.
The campaign was self shot on an iPhone during confinement and art directed via FaceTime for a raw aesthetic and analogue ‘90s vibe. “I think more brands and magazines will start working like this,” observed the designer. “Showing product in a real and everyday context is now more important than ever,” he said, adding that he thinks the end product is much more engaging than previous shoots.