Intimissimi is an Italian Lingerie Store that has managed to stay alive and well during the retail upheaval. In fact it has blossomed. Opening its first store on Fifth Ave. in NYC in 2017, it currently has 40 + stores across the U.S. and is still going strong. It has cultivated a brand that stands for quality in materials, fit and sales associates. All of this by maintaining its Italian manufacturing base and steady pricing. In 1,000 s/f, this is the experience. No bells, whistles, nor electronic gizmos. What seems to have been largely neglected in much of the retail conversation is the buying power and influence of women. It is a fact that women still do most of the shopping and buying, and still comprise over 80% of the consumer buying market. “Women influence $7 trillion of spending in the U.S. annually...”
Most importantly women want to buy clothes in physical stores. Yet when you think about where to go shopping for clothes, the pickings are slim. Not only are the choices of stores limited but great design, trained help, and amenities are few and far between. For example, it is no small matter to find dressing rooms with a chair or bench for a moment of comfort, a decent mirror and lighting , and more importantly trained staff to assist in sizing or styling. For thinking about purchases it is always a plus to find a small café with tables and seating, light foods and beverages. From Provincetown to New York there are more than a handful of local stores and small chains that are succeeding in retail and this number is growing. They have found their customer, know what sells, have competent sales staff, and have created an inviting interior. Typically found on shopping streets where rents are affordable, these retailers would locate in malls or shopping centers if spaces were not so large and rents not so high.
Women love clothes and the right retail experience, known as retail therapy, it is not going away. Many malls and shopping centers can be great again, but the business model needs to change. Remember years ago when malls were great? The tenant mix was peppered with 8 local clothes stores. Can we not bring back that goodness despite the malaise of the department stores? Women have the power, the influence, and they also shop for the whole family. Make it for them. They will come.
Carol Todreas is a principal at Todreas Hanley Associates, Cambridge, Mass.