Hard-hit Italy has been grappling with the impact of the coronavirus since late February — and now the country is taking some notable steps to get back in business.
On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte outlined his to ease lockdown restrictions imposed seven weeks ago. Speaking via a television broadcast Sunday night, he said the measures would be implemented in phases starting May 4. He stressed strict social distancing will remain a priority.
Measures directly impacting the fashion and footwear industries involve the resumption of factory production on May 4, followed by the reopening of retail establishments starting May 18.
“We’re ready,” said Sergio Rossi CEO Riccardo Sciutto. The brand is set to reopen its Italian boutiques in accordance with new social distancing guidelines, while adding additional measures specific to the footwear category. “Ensuring the safety of our employees and customers is crucial,” the executive said said. “Our stores will be equipped with ionizers to sanitize footwear and environments, masks and thermo scanners will be used to monitor the temperatures of workers and we’ll also provide our customers with protective socks for trying the shoes.”
However, he is also rethinking the whole retail experience to reflect the new era. “We’re working on a new storytelling strategy to create the right atmosphere and psychological context for purchases,” Sciutto said, adding that he is retraining staff to “be ready to face the new scenario once they return to work.”
Annamaria Brivio, the founder and designer behind Paris Texas, is eager to restart production at her Tuscan factory. “Everyone is really happy to be back on duty,” she said, adding that teams will follow strict social distancing and operate in shifts, in line with government recommendations.
Brivio also owns multibrand fashion boutique Norrgatan in Monza, just outside of Milan. When she reopens on May 18, the store will minimize the number of customers allowed to enter at a time. The store will be cleaned twice daily, and staff and customers will be equipped with masks and hand sanitizer.
Still, she expects a slow return to normalcy, with shoppers continuing to exercise caution. With that in mind, she will ramp up her digital customer service. The store already communicates with regular customers via WhatsApp, sending pictures and videos of clothes and shoes to facilitate purchases.
When it opens on May 4, the Onward Luxury Group-owned factory in Fossò will employ strict safety measures to protect workers. Surgical masks and gloves will be supplied for all, and facilities will be frequently sanitized.
Social distancing will be enforced through shift work, which means fewer employees will be in the factory at any given time to ensure everyone can work maintaining the requisite distance from each other.
“We are confident to be able to restart production and product development, thanks to our amazing employees who are all committed to the company, and to our efficient Italian shoe district located in Riviera del Brenta,” said CEO Fabio Ducci.
Meanwhile, the leader has been using the downtime to develop a new multi-brand virtual showroom. “It will be ready by the end of June for sales of our brands’ new spring ’21 collections,” he added.
New OLG brand Maria Luca, which debuted for the pre-fall season in January, was among the most severely affected. Although her collection was initially well received, she suffered order cancellations like everyone else. “The virus really hit us at a bad time for a new brand, and all our plans had to be cancelled,” said founder Carlotta de Luca.
However, with the factory soon up and running she anticipates being able to deliver in early July, only a month later than she had hoped. She’s staying positive, trusting in the enduring appeal of her offering. “I believe that in this new era, customers will be more focused on quality,” she said.
In addition to factories reopening on May 4, parks will open too. People will also be allowed to visit relatives — albeit in small numbers and within their own region.
Bars and restaurants will be able to operate for takeaway service as opposed to just delivery. All food must be consumed at home or in one’s place of work.
Funeral services can also resume with a maximum of 15 attendees and ideally outdoors and individual athletes can resume training with sports activities no longer restricted to the immediate vicinity of the home.
Starting May 18, retail establishments not already open under earlier measures (stores selling food and chemists, household and electrical repairs stores are already allowed to open with those selling children’s clothing stores and bookshops a more recent addition) will open along with museums and libraries. From this date, sports teams will be able to hold group training sessions.
Finally, as of June 1, hairdressers and beauty salons are expected to reopen along with dine-in service at bars and restaurants.
The prime minister’s announcement came as the country recorded its lowest daily death toll in weeks, with 260 new virus-related deaths on Sunday, the lowest daily figure since March 14. The death toll now stands at 26,644, Europe’s highest. Italy has confirmed 197,675 cases of the virus.