It's an event everyone in Milan looks forward to: the department store Rinascente unveils the Christmas windows of its Milan flagship in Piazza Duomo. This year, too, it was a spectacle. Onlookers crowded under the portico to catch a glimpse of the eight showcases.
The department store association hired two ballet dancers from Milan's La Scala opera house to perform “The Nutcracker” and pull the red cloths from the windows. Behind the glass panes, the Rinascente set up a miniature world that took passers-by back to childhood.
A filmmaker also got in on the action. Virgilio Villoresi has made a stop-motion film in which a nutcracker falls in love with a doll and travels from Turin, to Rome, to Milan to embrace her. The film will be broadcast on Italian television. For Rinascente CEO Pierluigi Cocchini, the cinematic artwork is part of the "magic" he wants to use to lure shoppers into the stores: "We provide entertainment. We are part of the city."
We are in a positive mood. Unlike last year, our stores are open. We have been generating very good sales since August. Let's see where we go from here.
Where does the Rinascente Group stand compared to 2019
If the Chinese didn't stay away, we would already be back to pre-crisis levels. We are selling very well to the local clientele. European tourists have returned. So have guests from the Arab world and America, with some cutbacks.
Some fashion labels are having supply problems. Are you feeling the effects of this?
No, we have no concern with that. We have agreed on commission models with many suppliers. This means that we have already received the goods and then pay for them, provided we sell them to the customers. That helps us a lot in this situation.
Inflation is on the rise. To what extent is this affecting the Rinascente Group?
Despite the Covid-19 crisis, we have not stopped investing in our sites. That's why we noticed early on that inflation was on the rise. We felt it in marble, iron or ceramic tiles. The raw materials have increased in price by about 20-25%. Those are jumps that scare you. But it hasn't delayed the renovation. As far as the purchase prices for fashion are concerned, on the other hand, we have not yet observed any inflationary effect.
We did better than in 2020. The discounts were less than a year ago. We had more merchandise in stock then, too. Still, we offered markdowns of 20% to 30%. The return rate was less than 1%.
How is omnichannel coming along?
We are very successful with our On Demand service, where customers can order via WhatsApp. We will generate more than €15 million in revenue here. That's a lot. If we then add our webshop, we will achieve omnichannel sales of €25 million to €30 million this year. Next year we will launch the marketplace with the big luxury brands. I expect us to take off in digital in 2022.
[The original version of this article has been published on December 8, 2021 on textilwirtschaft.de]