Following the enacting of the Ministerial Decree of Thursday, March, 12th, all public gathering places including shops and shopping malls have to stay closed for at least the next two weeks. SI asked some Italian retailers their opinion on the recent facts that obliged them to spend forced holidays.
“We closed our store on Wednesday, March, 11th, one day before the Ministerial Decree imposed the closing of all shops in the country, as many of my collaborators catch trains and public transportation to come to work and it was no longer safe to make them travel, not many people were around anymore - no tourists, nor many Italians. In reality, we have been working well until about ten days ago as tourists had already paid their trips and the COVID-19 situation was not that heavy yet, but once cases started increasing they mostly canceled their bookings. Looking at the overall situation we surely think that revenues will suffer heavily not only for now as we have to stay closed but also later as first we don’t know when this epidemic will be over – they say that it might be solved by Summer – but also and especially as we placed our orders but companies might not start production.
We did orders expected to be delivered for June, July and August but as shops will be closed how will companies be paid? They could eventually start producing but who knows what will happen afterwards? A small-medium enterprise whose revenues are about €20 million could start producing for the upcoming season investing, for instance, about €3 million, but none knows when stores will reopen. So to whom could they sell in five months? And, in case shops might reopen in June, they would start making sales from the s/s season, therefore, they might be late in paying their bills for s/s, nor they might have enough money for the new season’s orders.
Unfortunately with pre-order seasons we have to stick to products that companies produce in advance – differently, for instance, for a restaurant or an ice-cream shop – they can simply buy ingredients for their work and they can be operative again. I know that many Italian retailers are working and earn significantly through parallel: They buy in Italy and sell to far countries, like for instance, China. They won’t be able to do that for a while and for this we will find many stores selling discounted products – which will also not be good for the overall situation."
Looking at future recovery two parallel factors will count – health and economy. If they discover a vaccine the health problem can get solved, but before economy goes back to normality it will take time. I guess the whole 2020 year will be damaged. I never worked via e-commerce properly, but I am sure that when I will reopen my store I will also reactivate it in a much more structured way than before. Plus today as many people are staying at home all the time and might have economic difficulties – either them or their parents - I guess they won’t be caring much for buying themselves a great outer jacket or new pieces of clothing.
I also think that Europe didn’t give great help as soon as we were hit. The best thing to do was to close everything in all countries at the same time as the later you take measures to stop contagion the later you will solve it. We all depend upon each other as we are a single entity and one single market.”
Leonardo Tartaglia, store manager, Amedeo D, Milan:
“We have closed our store on Monday, March, 9th, two days before authorities asked to do it. We did it as we thought there were other priorities. We had noticed that business was very flat the week before they imposed the closing of all stores, in fact not many people entered the store nor were around. We thought it was correct closing our shop as there are other priorities like, for instance, personal and ethical reasons. We also closed our e-commerce, a channel we had opened about a year ago and that was starting to grow. Also in this case we might have kept it open, but this required to keep people working in our offices. We understand that in this moment people have more important matters to take care of rather than buying clothes. We don’t know what will happen after and how we will handle it. We first have to understand how consumption will change and follow a strategy that can fit that. Very probably we will reconsider our next steps from the beginning of April.”
“With the aim to contribute the collective effort to contain the Covid-19 contagion, we decided to temporarily close our stores on Sunday, March, 8th, and finally on Tuesday, March, 10th, before many other players in our trade. As we are a reference point in Lombardy and count 270 people in our staff, all young, enterprising, passionate and rich with enthusiasm, closing our stores was a necessary ethical choice. Coherently with our choice we also closed our Frisco store in Brescia, Space23 and Special Milano, all stores we manage.
The situation is extremely delicate and requires a collective effort. #andràtuttobene [editor’s note: the hashtag is used by many as an encouragement meaning “Everything will be alright] and we will come out stronger from all this. We are also running maxisport.com which continues selling online as are space23.it and specialmilano.com, all e-commerce websites selling in Italy and internationally. For this, we believe in their strong potential. History teaches that after every crisis there will be a recovery. We also think that people after this forced insulation will be highly motivated for a fresh restart. We are from Lombardy, therefore we are enterprising, never stopping and thinking positive.
We have many projects for our future, including the restyling of some areas in our stores, plans we have simply postponed within a few weeks. We have also boosted up our maxisport.com e-commerce website in order to meet our customers’ new needs. Starting from Thursday, March 12th until Monday March 16th, we reserved our customers an extra 10% discount on all of our new season’s products though we also launched a special 50% promotion on many other articles. Our customer service is working unstoppably – through smart working – in order to support our clients in every phase of their purchase and beyond. Our logistics is processing orders according to hygienic norms guaranteeing the possibility to receive one’s order within the next 24-48 hours only. Our Maxi Media Center is operating as we are constantly photographing all the newest s/s 2020 products. Our aim is to continue offering our clients new products everyday – everything is managed according to hygienic and security norms and with reduced staff.”
Michele Guzzo, owner, Michelediloco, Rome:
“We closed our store on March 10th, before the Decree imposed as we already felt clients and tourists, an important source for us, were missing. Our fashion section will be down on its knees as we have to pay rents and other fixed costs along with goods. Companies will give us a hand though everything has a limit. In the end we have to pay and without selling anything it’s a problem. The State will have to impose banks to expand our credit lines in order to manage earning something through the years. Future evolutions look like impasse. I cannot do any projects without liquid assets. We don’t have any e-commerce, though I think that in this moment this cannot save us. In fact, people are not in the state of mind to buy new clothes as they can’t go out and have other thoughts in their mind.”
“We had closed our stores on Tuesday, March, 11th, already as we wanted to reduce the eventual risks of contagion for customers and personnel. Despite our stores have closed we continue working through our e-commerce but also that channel is facing significant decreases. As we work with clients internationally we notice that the strong slowing down we are facing in Italy will also impact through our clients outside of the country as they will be facing the problems in the next weeks.
We are presently receiving phone calls from customers asking to buy from us. Some of them want to cheer themselves up and want to buy lots of products, others prefer not to buy very much. We estimate that this slowing down will impact the market for at least the next three months, despite we hope to re-open again in about two weeks. Despite all this all sectors of our economy will suffer significantly from it – not only retailers and companies but the whole value chain and the country at all levels. And after Italy also other countries will follow as we are all connected.
Despite this we are now studying how we can contain costs as much as possible. We are also trying to find partnerships with our suppliers as we are all connected and are trying to find solutions in order to support each other as everyone is involved in the present situation. Some of them, for instance, have already been farsighted and informed us about some possible solutions we can benefit from, like, for instance, delaying some payments.”
Giuseppe Giglio, president of the the board of directors, and Federico Giglio, CEO, Giglio, Palermo:
“We closed our stores only after that the Decree imposed it. The situation is quite complex. The length of the health emergency will play a fundamental role on the damages – that could also even be very strong - this closure might cause for traditional retail. Today it’s truly difficult guessing how this scenario could evolve. Though for locations with a high tourist – mostly international – concentration, the time for recreating a balance situation could be much longer than the solving of the health emergency. We have quite some new projects for out traditional retail, though we can only decide what we will do when this emergency situation will be over. Our e-commerce is suffering only because of understandable consumers’ fears, but only in the countries struck by COVID-19. It certainly represents an important and valid channel.”
Riccardo Serena, co-owner, Public Store, Padua:
“We closed our store one day before the Decree was enacted with the aim to act correctly and protect ourselves and our clients. The present situation is not brilliant at all. Despite we had noticed a slight recovery in our segment during the last year, this very bad epidemic will diminish consumption and purchase exponentially in the short-medium period. Though we are faithful all this can be solved as soon as possible.
Among the possible future scenarios that could become evident the most positive one could be that - when hopefully stores will reopen in about 15 days - customers will probably limit their moving and could re-evaluate shopping stores located in city centers and slowly avoid making their purchases in huge shopping malls. Another scenario could see an increase of online shopping. For this we are creating our own e-commerce website for selling our products in Italy and worldwide. Once this period will be over and our e-commerce platform will be fully operating we will be able to integrate its activity with what we carry ahead in our brick-and-mortar store.”
“We had already closed our Milan and Rome stores respectively two days and one day before the government issued its decree. Despite the present situation is obviously in stand-by, we feel that, like in every difficult moment, we will be able to pick a new opportunity. Our planning of future projects continues though we are also very careful about how this worldwide situation may evolve and that may temporarily put a stop to some of our projects.
Observing the recent decrees we continue our work through e-commerce, we invest in communication and on taking care of our clients more. We also collaborate with the brands we offer and try to work together in order to get the best from this situation.”