It’s been four years since United Colors of Benetton was in a store in the U.S., but the Italian brand is ready to test the waters again.
The definitively colorful brand is holding a monthlong pop-up in Santa Monica, Calif., starting next week, and looking at the move as “a test” in developing its future retail strategy. Benetton has been focusing online since early 2014, when it started to exit its 60 retail locations in America. In turnaround mode since last year, when Luciano Benetton returned to the brand he started with his family in 1965, plans for the company appear to be taking shape.
The retailer said it’s looking at more pop-ups in other regions, but also the idea of getting into permanent retail again in the U.S. The upcoming pop-up will hold no inventory, but only size runs for shoppers to try on and then place orders online to be shipped direct to them, purportedly in an effort to “eliminate waste” and maintain the brand’s long sustainable ethos. Benetton only a few months ago relaunched its U.S. e-commerce web site, but the company said sales have been strong enough in the country to prompt the consideration of a retail effort.
Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, a year ago named Benetton’s new creative director, said he and the Benetton team were excited at the prospect of returning to the U.S. market.
“It’s the perfect time for Benetton, and me I will say, because our style has never been more relevant,” de Castelbajac said. “Color is all over the world now, even in luxury.”
As for why he chose Santa Monica for the brand’s official reentry into the U.S., the designer noted California’s link with eco-consciousness, something Benetton made a part of its brand decades ago, as well as the area’s general taste for sportswear.
“I’ve come over and I’m wearing a shirt from the collection and people will stop me and say, ‘Wow, that’s fire,’” de Castelbajac said, adding that Benetton’s online sales in America are now the company’s best.
“All over the world, and particularly in the U.S., there is a Benetton generation and my challenge is to bring in their sons and daughters to the stores now. I want to bring back the color and the old DNA of the brand,” he said.
De Castelbajac also admitted that retail with Benetton holds something of a sentimental allure for him as a designer, one who’s made a career with a very particular style and sensibility.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to see [my designs] in very wide distribution, now I can put all of my experience into a commercial, profitable outfit,” he said. “I hope this is the first step for a long time of growth.”
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