Luxury brands can’t lean on tourism shopping to make their margins this summer. Due to the Coronavirus, travel bans have prevented high spending clients from the US, Russia and Brazil from entering the European Union. In contrast, critical clients from China and the Middle East are, by and large, staying away as cities like Paris, Rome and Barcelona find themselves devoid of foreign tourists. But locals still flocked to glamourous vacation ports such as Capri, St. Tropez, Ibiza and Porto Cervo on the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. This summer, brands zeroed in on seasonal pop-ups and experiences hoping to court their local, but generally less profitable, European clients.
Dior has taken this foreign tourist pause to expand on their summer pop-up shop concepts in even more European vacation hubs. Places like Forte dei Marmi, Cortina d’Ampezzo and Capri will carry the unique Dioriviera collection. Dior CEO Pietro Beccari said in an interview with me last month that he wanted to “surprise clients – who in many cases dock their boat for the day for lunch and shopping – to show up in new and unexpected locations.”
Chanel is also no stranger to this concept. For over ten years, they host a seasonal shop in St. Tropez townhouse, complete with a swimming pool. In Capri, now in its 9th season, their ephemeral shop is set amongst palm trees and bougainvillea in a terracotta building. The iconic French brand is in its second year in Bodrum, Turkey, the Aegean sea exotic vacation spot. Chanel Bodrum is set within the lush gardens of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Along with iconic house classics, the seasonal shops offer the Coco Beach de Chanel collection. Each shop generally opened late June and runs until August 31 to as late as October 25, depending on the location.
Spanish leather goods and lifestyle brand Loewe is also in on the action with their Paula Ibiza collection. Its pop-up returns to its namesake vacation haunt and debuts a second location in St. Tropez for the catering to the beach lifestyle collection. Think rave-worthy tie-dye, demonstrative sunglasses and reimagined summer straw bags. As creative director J.W. Anderson puts it, the collection “embodies the spirit of letting go.” Not just for the hedonistic, the brand will donate 40 euros from each item sold to charities targeting children’s most vulnerable to the detrimental effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This summer, smaller lesser-known brands have also joined the party. Paris-based publicist Giorgia Viola pivoted her business with a branding and sales concept called “Follow the Sun.” Comprised of her clients and brands she admired, she took the merchandise on a traveling pop-up shop in St. Tropez and Costa Smeralda near Porto Cervo in Sardinia. Viola offered that despite the current virtual world of retail, an outdoor vacation pop-up would give clients an “alternative for those who miss a physical experience and contact with the products.”
With niche brands such as Sandra Mansour (RTW), Adriana Degreas (swimwear), Emm Kuo NY(mother-of-pearl clutches), Milena & Sonia Trapasso (jewelry) and Magnetic Midnight (embellished headpieces) in tow, Viola set off to connect with potential like-minded clients eager to participate in immersive destination centric experiences. The project even translated to potential customers and venue staff acting as models on the spot social media shoots promoting the brands. The publicist billed the event to participants as a sales opportunity but also exposure and promotion of their brand in these locales.
Kicking off in Cabane Bambou, a beach club in St. Tropez, the Follow the Sun showcase of glam beachwear and apropos accessories was displayed in a setting designed by David Bitton. Viola met the French architect via her street’s balconies as she organized a socially distanced terrace concert among neighbors during lockdown. Bitton created the pop-ups bamboo and wicker furniture styling, store signage, and unique vases on display and for sale.
Next up, Nikki Beach Beach Club on the Italian Costa Smeralda. The Miami Beach-founded upscale venue is accessible via ferry boat that lands reservation-only guests to the non-stop day party fueled by DJ Gabriele Fernandez. A good friend of Viola’s, the DJ paired her with Nikki Beach Costa Smeralda marketing director, and a partnership hatched. While her St. Tropez event lasted two days, at Nikki Beach, the event lasted from August 3 to the 16, encompassing the Ferragosto holiday weekend.
Viola noted that except for a few die-hard travelers, all clients had been local. “The French stayed in France; Italians in Italy. We didn’t expect the banned countries, of course,” she said, “but you can either persist or wait for things to change. The pop-up was a way to show their audience that these brands are alive and continuing to do business.”
While these brands focused on temporary locations, some chose to permanently put down roots in vacation hotspots. Aquazurra opened its first boutique in Capri, where founder Edgardo Osorio says the brand began as the name derived from the color of the sea surrounding the Italian island. The brands’ 11th store, Capri is the most holiday-centric, usually appealing to international tourists. Osorio said while typically they are the island’s lifeline, this year is different. “It’s nice to see Europeans and Italians all over the island again, it feels like the Sixties in a good way,” he said, noting even with the Covid-19 imposed restrictions, the island remains a top yacht and luxury tourism spot.
Laure Heriard-Debreuil opened her eighth outpost of The Webster – a niche luxury boutique founded in 2009 in Miami Beach – stateside at Rosewood Miramar Beach resort in Montecito, California, a sophisticated and idyllic coastal retreat. The French-born retailer moved to the West Coast last year and opened two stores during the COVID-19 crisis, which didn’t rattle Heriard-Debreuil. Her first store opened on the heels of the 2008 financial crisis.
Heriard-Debreuil notes the clients at Montecito are mainly local – whether weekenders from LA and San Francisco, resort club members or day-trippers out for lunch and leisure – snapping up handbag and shoe best sellers from European brands like Fendi, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent. “Our clients still desire the experience we offer them. The Webster created a safe haven, a place to dream where time stops.”