United Colors of Benetton's London flagship on Oxford Street marks a significant change of pace for the Italian fashion brand.
The retailer has incorporated informal, hi-tech spaces into the three-storey space, as well as a knitwear theatre which it claims will offer 'an ultimate brand experience that goes beyond the traditional idea of a shop'.
The 1,500 sq m store is located on the east side of Oxford Street, close to the new Tottenham Court Road station on the Elizabeth Line, and part of a rapidly developing area. It will be an outpost for Benetton in the UK, a market where the brand is present with 55 points of sale and where it plans to expand its activity further.
“As the world of retail is rapidly changing, the design brief specifically tackles how consumer habits are adjusting, while digital shopping is increasing exponentially, and at the same time physical experience is proving a key factor to a successful retail format, that cannot be left out,” says Michele Trevisan, global head of retail design at Benetton. “When we started the project, the brief was not just to do another flagship store; the idea was to create a brand amplifier, a place where the customers can become users of the brand’s philosophy, not just simple consumers. Therefore, we decided to use three drivers for the project: attract, explore and inspire.”
On the exterior, an arched counter-facade invites passersby to enter and dream. While the 12m-high arches recall classical architecture, the LED screen cladding will showcase interactive content curated by Fabrica, playing with colour textures, images and illustrations.
“The store façade is the main attracting element, not just a simple facade but a strong and impactful communication tool. The façade philosophy is in fact a combination of the classical architectural elements of the arcade together with a digital LED skin in which the content displayed allows interaction with the public,” explains Trevisan.
Once inside, shoppers are encouraged to explore the space around them. The store has been designed entirely by Benetton's retail design department and furnished with natural materials such as wood, iron and stone.
“The store layout and the product displays have been designed to simplify the circulation and the product exploration, while the interaction between sales associates and customer is facilitated thanks to a new mobile payment system and the presence of innovative express check out desks which allow a more friendly and queue-free service,” says Trevisan.
United Colors of Benetton is an Italian company with more than 50 years of history, and this was the real starting point of the project.
“We are proud of being an Italian brand in an international fashion world. That’s why we developed the interior design mood using a selection of warm, elegant and honest materials with Italian taste. The flooring features terrazzo Veneziano for most of the floor area, an essence of ash tree wood furnishes all the furniture in combination with natural iron elements, while the ceiling is composed of a mix of high gloss surfaces, metal mesh and an interpretation of a classical Italian cassettoni wood ceiling. In specific areas, greenery is added to complete the natural environment via the presence of live trees and plants. Colours and finishes are inspired by the Mediterranean environment,” adds Trevisan.
Staff are on hand in the knitwear theatre to present Benetton's vast knitwear collections. In the lounge area, customers can relax while reading books and design magazines. In addition, a series of touchscreen tables allow visitors to interact with the entire collection as well as with the brand's most significant contents.
Customers will be able to move fluidly across the three levels – dedicated to men's, women's and children's collections – thanks to a 'loop' staircase that extends like a ribbon across the shop floors and leads to a series of scattered stations that replace traditional checkouts.
Technology is also key to the customer experience. Inside the store, two digital applications were created with the intention to simplify the customer’s activity reducing the waste of time. The first one is the mobile payment system that, thanks to the use of Retail Pro POS on WiFi tablets, allows an exclusive payment via mobile and card only, potentially everywhere in the store, reducing the time spent in a queue.
The second one is represented by three digital interactive tables showcasing content on selected products, on the Benetton brand initiatives and, thanks to the use of an integrated RFID antenna, they release technical information about the products that are placed on the tabletop.
The new Oxford Street flagship is Benetton’s 16th UK store.
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