We’ve spent the last 2 weeks traveling around Northern Italy. During our journey we have found some amazing retail. If there’s one thing the Italians know how to do it’s integrate food service into any retail concept. This is something we’re seeing more and more in the US, UK and gradually in Australia; but it’s something they’ve nailed. Whether you’re going to Dolce & Gabbana’s Martini bar or 10 Corso Como for lunch. Stores are about the ‘dolce vita’ not just product.
Here are our top 5 stores from Italy (aside from Eataly and Brian e Barry which you can read about):
1. 10 Corso Como:
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For those that area familiar with Merci and Colette in Paris or Jeffery’s in New York, 10 Corso Como is it in Milan. Corso Como is the creation of Carla Sozzani, who in her previous live was the editor or Vogue Italia and Elle. Her retail concept is all about a lifestyle – it mixes highly edited high-end fashion, with tech (they were featuring the Apple watch on our visit), with art, a bookshop and a beautiful garden that doubles as a restaurant/bar.
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From her Milan concept, she has partnered with Comme des Garcons to bring Corso Como to Tokyo and with Samsung to bring it to Seoul. The latest edition to it’s expansion has been in Shanghai, where 10 Corso Como opened in 2013.
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This store is a brilliant example of how to sell a lifestyle. Sozzani curates ranges that go across different and diverse categories to make the ‘Corso Como’ brand.
Address: 10 Corso Como, Milan
2. Museo Ferrari & Store
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This is the stuff boys/men dream about. We took a trip down to the famed Maranello to see the legendary Museo Ferrari. The interest in this concept stems from how a car manufacturer can translate it’s brand into retail and out of it’s core offering – selling everything from shirts, to strollers.
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Ferrari is a legend, Enzo and his temperament one of the main characters. The Museum is the ultimate expression of the brand, showing off it’s F1 heritage, it’s famed drivers, and it’s one-off cars for exclusive clients. This is then translated into it’s store which does not sell cars – but ‘fan gear’. If the audience of the museum (who around 70% were dressed in some Ferrari paraphernalia) is anything to go by, it’s working well for them.
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This museum concept is another expression of retail – not traditional retail, but when a brand is so strong it uses it’s history to essentially become a place for it’s fans.
Address: via Dino Ferrari 43, Maranello.
3. Dolce & Gabanna
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The luxury houses of Milan (ie. Versace, Armani, Prada, Dolce Gabanna etc) all know how to do flagship. It’s not about the clothes, or the shoes or the bags…it’s about creating a holistic experience which epitomises the house’s vision. For Prada, that involves the use of the Prada Institute (dedicated to the arts), for Armani that’s about having a hotel and restaurant. For Dolce & Gabbana it’s a co-branded bar with Martini, a men’s barber as well as a dedicated shoe & handbag store and made to measure in the menswear store around the corner.
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Dolce & Gabanna pretty much own the corner of Via Della Spiga (like the Fifth Avenue of Milan) and Corso Venezia; and they’ve created an all day/night experience…that there’s no reason to leave.
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We love this concept because none of the services feel out of the place, they all fit with the D&G lifestyle (probably because they were chosen by it’s founders and creative directors). It’s a great lesson in how to expand outside of your core, without the customer feeling like something is not quite right.
Address: Via Della Spiga 2 & Corso Venezia 15, Milan
4. The Annex by La Rinacente
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Globally there are quite a few department stores struggling with bringing in the next general of consumer – take Nordstrom in the US, or John Lewis in the UK. It seems that Italian department store, La Rinacente is another one to add to that list. As background La Rinacente was founded in Milan in 1917 and is now owned by the Thai Central Group. Next to their flagship store (across from the Duomo) they have opened a second younger concept called Annex. This concept opened in February of this year.
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Annex is spread across 3 floors and is a wholly generation Y or Z expression of a traditional department store…that said they could push it even further. On the entry floor there is a Mac Store and nail bar – to replace the regular big cosmetics floor – and a cafe (because we are in Italy). On Level 1, it’s a mixture of shoes (converse, adidas – street shoes), accessories (sunglasses, headbands, and make your own bracelets), bags, tech gadgets and gifts.
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The gifts area is great – you could waste hours looking at all the trinkets. Then finally the top floor, where there is a Nike and Urban Outfitters concession, and a denim bar. All of this is pulled together in a different store design – with exposed ceilings and polished floors.
It’s on our list because we like the effort that’s gone into addressing the next generation and the acknowledgement that the same offer won’t work for them…but none of it feels like we haven’t seen it before in a youth specialist.
Address: Santa Radegonda 10, Milan.
5. Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II
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This is the best looking mall we have ever seen (and it’s one of the oldest – build from 1865-77). I think we’re not the only ones, given it’s a major tourist attraction in it’s own right. This mall has become home to most of Milan’s oldest retailers. In fact it has Prada’s original store.
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What’s interesting about this site – aside from it’s beauty – is it’s integrity to (particularly of late) to keep it Milanese. They recently refused McDonalds tenancy (after it had traded there for the past 20 years). McDonalds sued, and lost – subsequently replaced by a new Prada store! The Galleria has spent the past few years being restored to it’s glory (funded not surprisingly by Prada – among others).
We love this space because it’s what a mall should be a place the whole city passes through, feels that they own and are proud of. It’s commercial without feeling corporate.

Author Pippa Kulmar

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