PARIS — After Milan, Benetton made Paris blush pink this week with the reopening of its flagship on Place de l’Opéra.
Given a bright pink makeover, in a nod to the Italian label’s long-standing affection for colors, the store felt right in step with the effervescence brought by the return of international visitors.
“As soon as I landed [in Paris], I felt there was not only a lot of people, but also a lot of energy, like the city wants to revamp [itself]. People want to go out, socialize and buy, because we see results and they’re very promising,” said Massimo Renon, chief executive officer of Benetton Group.
Foot traffic was indeed brisk, with locals stepping in to browse the label’s spring 2022 collection by artistic director Jean-Charles de Castelbajac that mixes pastel hues and animal-print details, or look around the brightly painted space.
The 8,600-square-foot store had been closed since November, when a fire broke out in the upper floors of the building. While retail spaces were not directly affected, they suffered extensive water damage.
And expectations are high for this location, which is described as “one of the most important stores in the world” for Benetton.
Although Renon didn’t share sales expectations for the Paris flagship, one of the brand’s four stores in the French capital, he said the goal was to return to 2019’s walk-in levels this year given the impact of the fire-related closure, with 2023 on the horizon as “the year we see a record year for the store in terms of profitability and sales.”
In coming months, the pink livery will be rolled out in other flagships globally, with a destination in Asia and “one iconic city in Italy,” one with “meaning for the company” and that would be “a sort of destination,” according to the executive.
As it stands, the “Pink Box” is a palate cleanser of sorts, as a new retail concept was already in the works. “Pink is a wonderful color but it’s not the only one we have,” he teased.
This also marked a new era for Benetton, said Renon, who said the company was seeing double-digit growth compared to 2021 and with the aim of “going as close as [they] can to 1 billion euros in net sales” while increasing profitability above 2019’s figures.
A factor of success is the increased sell-through and sales per square meters, which he credited to a tightening of retail processes. “As we move more toward direct-to-consumer, we know we have to be effective and timely in what we deliver into our stores,” he said.
Renon revealed that while business has returned to pre-pandemic levels, the proportion of wholesale and direct retail had changed.
“[The latter] has grown to 60 percent of our turnover, through e-commerce and stores like this one, which is very good. This is part of our strategy to be less and less intermediated by third parties, to make Benetton into a brand rather than a clothing company,” including on the production side, he continued.
Ahead is a push to attract a younger clientele, who will no doubt be drawn to a brand that is present in popular social simulation video game Animal Crossing and is slated to make its metaverse debut later this year.
But this should not be done at the expense of an existing clientele, averaging between 35 and 42 years old globally, Renon cautioned, saying that he “didn’t want to change or shift [this age range as much as] integrate different and younger customers.”
And while some 30 percent of its net sales are done through e-commerce, up from around 3 to 4 percent three years ago, Benetton is not about to let up on its physical retailers and own network, which totals some 4,000 stores.
Its homeland of Italy remains Benetton’s largest market, accounting for around 15 percent of its sales, followed by India at 11 percent and after that, Korea, France and the Iberian peninsula.
The brand has plans to reenter the U.S. market, where it is only currently present through e-commerce, with the opening of flagships and the support of third-party retail partners.
Renon hinted a first move would be with a temporary store that would coincide with Art Basel in Miami in December.