The New York Times last week reported that Versace would be opening a new store in a mall.

Why is that news?

The new boutique will be debuting in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan’s enclosed multi-level mall built in the mid-19th century adjacent to the city’s Duomo. And Versace, along with Prada, will be contributing millions of dollars to a major renovation of the center. (In Chapter 4 of Threshold Resistance, “Evolution of the Mall,” I focus on the Galleria to support my argument that the enclosed shopping mall was invented long before the 1960s and to highlight one of the best early examples of this historic building type.)

The story also reports on other examples of Italian luxury merchants helping to fund restoration and renovation work on the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, Rome’s Trevi Fountain, and Milan’s La Scala opera house. It is interesting, but not surprising to me, that retailers are embracing and investing in distinctive destinations and physical space.

A recent study by A.T. Kearney, confirming the continuing competitiveness of brick and mortar retailing, concluded: “Physical stores are clearly customers’ preferred shopping channel and a place where the most significant consumer and retailer value continues, and will continue, to be created.”

The study found that, “90 percent of all retail sales are transacted in stores and 95 percent of all retail sales are captured by retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence.”
View the Study Here.

This is not to say that Versace is ignoring its opportunities online. Like all good retailers, they are pursuing an integrated “omni-channel” marketing and distribution strategy. Customers are still human, and as it has been for centuries, shopping in physical environments as inviting as Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is as much a part of life as enjoying a live performance at La Scala or tossing a coin into Trevi Fountain.

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