The big lockdown caused by the Covid-19 got me in Barcelona. After two months of mostly staying at home I finally had a chance to get back to one of my biggest passions… which is not bowling. It is Mens´wear :)!!! In this particular case, I am curious to investigate the relationship between luxury stores and their clients in this post-pandemic reopening, that shook the whole world fashion system. Some of my favorite fashion brands finally reopened their stores in the “golden street” of Barcelona called Paseo de Gracia. I decided to go and discover the “new normal” way of shopping in person… You know I am fashionista;) Between the new strict safety measures some of the luxury brands have restarted their business trying to maintain the best service and positive energy with customers.
I started my fashion day at Gucci. I knew they were opening at 10:30 so Lucifer arrived at 10:25, of course! If you ever had experience in fashion retail, you probably know that the first and last clients of the day are usually considered pure hell… so you understand why I was there… precise as a Swiss watch, and hostile as a cuckoo bird.
And so the golden gates of Gucci store open… The team greeting at the door was impeccable even though the face-masks do not fit the warm glamour of the boutique. Gucci offers you hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks. The mask is elegantly (or securely?) passed over to you with the help of long medical tweezers. I found it to be quite an entertaining detail that perfectly matched with my black “sado” gloves.
After completing the security ritual I was ready to participate in the Gucci experience and looked over the pieces of the collection. The customer service was exactly the same to before the pandemic and the attention to the client did not disappoint. I found the new way of shopping in a less busy store kind of elegant. Also at the moment, it is recommended to visit the store by appointment in order to have the best service possible and help maintain secure distance dictated by the Spanish government.
The second store on my fashion route was Prada. Prada is well known for its exquisite attention to customer and the post-pandemic did not change this at all. At Prada, contrary to Gucci, the face-masks worn by the team members (carefully selected by the strict grooming rules famous worldwide) matched perfectly fine with their medical clinic-like atmosphere.
Once again I was offered hand sanitizer, and a mask. After extraordinary welcoming I proceeded to the men fashion area – made to measure room, to be more precise. Here I selected a few new prints for my favorite cut of shirts, wondering if the usual delivery dates (aprox. one to one month and a half ) will be affected by the “new normal”.
While the Prada team were giving me their best attention with my next order, I was kindly offered a coffee which is temporarily served in paper cups for safety reasons. I finished this pleasant experience with receiving a beautiful gift from the store manager: an iconic Prada Book. (A real Prada Bible that weights literally 10 kilos which I ended up carrying all day)
The third stop of the day was at Dolce and Gabbana. Similar safety measures did not reduce the glamour of this brand and its Italian holiday spirit. I also had my appointment arranged previously in order to follow the new shopping policy. Even though the doorman was not present anymore and the team watched me struggle to open the heavy door, not daring to help me (maybe because of Codiv-19?!?) The rest of the welcome was fine, but not especially warm, I have to say.
I was invited to the second floor where the men fashion department is. There I had the pleasure to choose some items from the Dolce&Gabbana S/S 2020 men´s collection (always maintaining the distance, of course) in a very friendly and helpful mood surrounded by hand sanitizers all around the room.
Due to the reduced transfers between the shops (the fact that is similar for all the fashion brands currently), some of my chosen items will be delivered during the next week. I am looking forwards to coming back to the store and its “Blu dipinto di blu” summer mood.
Last but not least… was my stop at Versace store. Same as in Dolce & Gabbana the doorman was absent but an open door and energetic sunny greeting by the team made me not think about it for too long. Like in other stores, safety is a priority so I had my hands sanitized again! While feeling extremely clean (I mean my hands, not my soul) I was invited to come inside the more private area of the store where Versace “delicatessen” were displayed. Some of the areas at Versace were safeguarded with ropes in order to keep everything allegedly safe and clean.
I found Versace team extremely well organized and lovely. They were eager to find quick solutions for any of the clients wishes. I was lucky to find all of the pieces from my list for this summer (including some with the iconic baroque print that make this brand famous worldwide.) I also had a chance to check (for the first time this year) the Versace Home collection without rush, just in case I have to spend more time at home in these coming months… in pure Donatella Versace style.
At the end of my exploration of a new “normal way” of shopping I got more questions than answers. I cannot say that it was an uncomfortable experience for me as a client (even with all the safety measurements) but in my opinion, it still was an experiment for the luxury fashion boutiques and their teams.
If on one hand, the retail has to reinvent the interaction with their scared customer, on the other hand, they have to deal with the online sales that in these last months have definitely become the major way to shop. The masks of sales assistants can´t hide the preoccupation they have about the close future and I don´t blame them for that. In the end, millions of workplaces everywhere including retail, are in danger if not already lost!
Will the new enemy of the luxury brand stores be the desperation of millions of people who struggle (due to the significantly reduced personal income during the covid19 emergency months)? Will the luxury fashion stores become the scapegoats for the global discontent in the early future? I am thinking of Marie Antoinette getting her head cut off…
Will the luxury stores maintain the existing and possibly new clients with the help of store design, with personalized vendor attention, doormen, gifts, and drinks? Will all of that be enough? Will that be enough to help people forget the fear of the virus and its consequences?
I am passing by the luxury window displays of the stores in Paseo de Gracia with all of these questions in my mind. While the fashion temple doors are reopened, the future of the retail stores remains uncertain.
All the photos and videos in this article by: Stainedjabot.