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Why René Caovilla Continues to Make Investments in Brick-and-Mortar Retail

While the retail landscape continues to shift amid the coronavirus pandemic, René Caovilla sees opportunity.

This fall, the luxury footwear brand opened its first shop in China at Beijing’s SKP luxury department store, in addition to launching its directly operated e-commerce site on Alibaba’s Tmall. Now the brand is celebrating the opening of its latest boutique located at the Bal Harbour Shops in Miami. Edoardo Caovilla, the creative director and CEO of the René Caovilla, told FN the brand has no intention of slowing down even as COVID-19 continues to reshape the economy.

“I have a background in finance and when you see the toughest situation, that’s the best time to strike,” said Caovilla. “Because you’re taking advantage of what is going on.”

Accenting its continued international growth, René Caovilla’s new 1,200-sq.-ft boutique is situated in Miami’s most internationally-acclaimed open air shopping mall. The new boutique houses the latest collection from the luxury footwear brand as well as exclusive colorways of the label’s most beloved styles, including its celebrity-approved Cleo sandal that Kim Kardashian recently wore to her 40th birthday bash.

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René Caovilla botique, René Caovilla, cleo sandal
René Caovilla Cleo Sandal in yellow satin with strass, a limited-edition colorway for the brand’s Bal Harbour boutique.
CREDIT: Courtesy of René Caovilla

With real estate prices down and fashion capitals shifting, Caovilla sees potential in locations beyond Europe and New York, though the brand has plans to refurbish and expand some stores in Europe, including locations in Venice and Paris.

“Worldwide, the strength of different industries is changing a lot, and when an industry changes it also changes the landscape of a place,” said Caovilla. “In the beginning, we were focused on Europe, but now we’re expanding to the Eastern and Western parts of the world.”

Caovilla sees Miami as a retail hub that will bounce back after the pandemic due to the area’s warm climate and its position as a shopping destination for South American consumers. He also sees promise in Asian marketplaces such as Japan and China, where the brand will be hosting a pop-up in Shanghai’s Plaza 66 at the beginning of 2021.

“We’re happy because we’re able to intercept this kind of change and move forward,” said Caovilla on the brand expanding its in-person reach while COVID-19 continues to spread.

Still, in line with the trend seen across much of the industry, René Caovilla’s physical retail network has underperformed during the global pandemic. However, its wholesale business and strength in e-commerce — including a well-received presence on Alibaba’s Tmall network — has helped offset brick-and-mortar declines and the company expects to close the year with sales down 20-25% compared to 2019. What’s more, as with the Miami store opening and its push into Asian markets, the brand is being disciplined and strategic about the cities its targets for store expansion.

“This period of COVID has been stressful, not only for people but also with companies,” said Caovilla. “But we have strength and capabilities in this position.”

What’s next for the brand? The team confirmed its plans to open a store in Scottsdale, Ariz., at The Palmeraie Shops, a new retail development in the Grand Canyon State, between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022.

In addition to the Italian footwear company’s plans for global expansion, René Caovilla has also been working on a sustainability report that will be available at the end of 2021.

“We are conducting a full mapping of our entire supply chain, identifying the main social and environmental risks associated with current practices,” read a statement from the company to FN. “For the last six months, we have been focused to define the sustainability strategy. This will guide Caovilla toward our sustainability journey.”

René Caovilla at the Bal Harbour Shops is located at 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, FL 33154. It will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

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