On Monday, May 18, after almost three months of lockdown due to Covid-19 emergency, stores have reopened their doors allover Italy.
In Milan city center people crowded shopping streets. Despite many stores offered sales, traffic and sales were not high, though encouraging as an overall optimistic and friendly atmosphere pervaded the city. People queued in front of Rinascente, Zara and H&M, while respectfully observing rules to wear masks, gloves and clean their hands before entering. Unfortunately not many teenagers were around.
Not all stores have reopened like, for instance, Foot Locker, though are expected to start operating in the next days. Others will not re-open at all like Bershka in Via Torino and two H&M (one in via Torino and another one in Corso Buenos Ayres). Some smaller shops based in some peripheric area remained closed and exposed signs stating “In such conditions I cannot reopen”, meaning that they cannot afford adequating themselves to governmental rules without financing. Despite this, all over Milan city center most stores were open.
By asking retailers their first impression, most of them pointed out that despite traffic was not very high they expected less people in their stores and, most important, in most cases whoever entered made some purchase.
Most stores follow shorter opening hours reduced of about 10%-20% when compared to their regular working hours - opening slightly later and closing earlier. They have redesigned their shops’ layouts in order to leave more space and guarantee a distance of about 1.5-1.8 meter between each person. Many stores are also exposing printed signs explaining they care for their customers and what rules they have to respect, like, for instance, keeping a distance with others, wearing protections and washing their hands with special gel before entering.
Despite limitations, the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming almost everywhere, most often showing retailers and shopassistants relieved for being back to work, and consumers free again to move around the city.
Some store’s personnel also took body temperature at the entrance, but not many as they are not obliged, according to rules, as explained by Simone, shop manager of the OVS store in Via Torino. “It’s a high cost keeping a person for the whole day who is able to check temperature professionally and approach gently and empathically whoever enters. Despite this, we think it’s important as we want to show our clients we care for them.” Among others who use thermoscanners at entrance there were also Zara, H&M and Rinascente.
Also Rinascente’s Annex area hosting young fashion, jeanswear and streetwear brands was practically empty confirming that the younger kids are not around yet. Let’s hope this changes soon.
Fast fashion chains like Zara and H&M hosted queues outside, and also looked quite lively inside, even if no queue was waiting in front of changing rooms, that are sanitised with hot steam shots every time a client uses it as the clothes tried. Despite this footwear cannot be tried on.Also Rinascente is caring for sanitizing tried on clothes. In fact, it collects all pieces worn bly clients in specific rooms were they are kept in “quarantine” for 24 hours.
Many stores have opened offering significant discounts. Treesse gives a 25% discount on every brand, apart a few higher-end price like Octopus, sold at 10%. Pimkie offered a selection of pieces at 50%. La Rinascente, probably the most crowded department store, hosted people queuing outside while waiting to enter. As part of its offer a vast selection of products are discounted at maximum 50%, but also 40% and less until July 1. Its consumers’ attitude is well-disposed at spending, as explained by a shopassistant of the department store’s woman’s jeans department: “Some pass by and simply look around. Some others decide they deserve a present after such a long time. Therefore they buy.” Another shopassistant points out that brands like Max Mara and Louis Vuitton are selling very well...though it all depends what she compares with.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan’s beautiful “salotto”, one of first parts of the city to closed down shops when the emergency started, that showed very sad and desolate at the beginning of lockdown with designer brands store all closed, has opened again from day one, though stores like Prada, Versace, Armani and Gucci appeared completely empty. Unfortunately the Galleria lives out of tourism and so far not many foreign visitrs are in town. Only sign of optimism is the rainbow-decored Louis Vuitton store exhibiting, together with luxury merchandise, a slogan many had forgotten during quarantine saying “Andrà tutto bene”, meaning everything will be alright, a wish many hope becomes true very soon.
Despite some stores have remained closed, like, for instance, Milan’s Apple store, a cool gathering place for the Milanese, others in Italy decided to inaugurate exactly on May 18 giving a positive sign to its clients and the country. Among them there is Nove25, handmade silver jewellery Italian brand that inaugurated its second Milanese shop in Corso Buenos Ayres, and Sisley, that launched a new store concept in Treviso on the same day. This store, while respecting new laws guaranteeing safety doesn’t host mannequins but bidimensional silhouettes with men and women faces hand drawn designed by architect Tobia Scarpa. We all need fresh ideas to go back to a new norm.