When most people think of Barcelona, the first features that come to mind are its unusual architecture, rich history and Catalan cuisine. But the area is also home to a burgeoning class of “citi-sumers” who are fueling a vibrant and innovative retail resurgence. During a recent trip to attend BrandLoyalty’s bi-annual Retail Congress, several colleagues and I had the opportunity to visit five innovative retailers to see firsthand how their merchandising, marketing and product assortments are creating unique and memorable customer experiences.
Roca, one of the world’s leading brands in the bathroom sector, sells via 75 distributors in 18 countries. In 2009 the company built its flagship Roca Gallery Barcelona – a glass-encased showroom where social, cultural and expositional activities take place.
The experience of visiting the showroom is about as far as you could get from a trip to a typical North American hardware store to pick out toilets, sinks and faucets. Roca positions its high-end bathroom fixtures as jewels for its architects and individual customers. Every aspect of the showroom has been meticulously designed to feel like a museum – from the interactive digital displays to the typeface on the wall that accompany each Roca product to the company’s partnership with Armani.
Large visual screen s throughout the area depict customers interacting with Roca’s products juxtaposed with artistic videos built around the theme of “We Are Water.” Roca’s history, advertising and product specifications are accessible via interactive video screens in a choice of languages.
This chain of health-conscious baby items, with locations in Barcelona, Madrid and Mexico, is the brainchild of four young entrepreneurial mothers who found opportunity in parents’ concerns about giving their children the best and teaching them to respect the environment. Their international experience in design, fashion, restaurants, law and teaching – combined with their knowledge of retailing in Europe and America – were fundamental to the launch of this innovative business concept.
Baby Deli sells environmentally friendly lifestyles through healthy food, sustainably sourced fashion and educational toys. Upon entering the store, customers are greeted by a small courtyard garden featuring a wooden train and a chalkboard that lists the educational seminars and events being held at the store.
Nearly every product can be touched and played with as parents and children relax in the in-store café to sample organic foods or enjoy a coffee. An expansive playroom area at the back of the store is used for educational events and can also be rented for children’s birthday parties.
Recognizing that the birth of a baby is often a catalyst for mothers to change their routines as well as their family’s eating habits, every aspect of the store is intended to provide inspiration on ecological awareness through healthy practices, organic products and responsible consumption.
A visit to Gra de Gracia (A Granel) is like stepping back in time as the store looks to the past to recreate a buying experience that pre-dates packaged foods. The single-location store embodies the concept of “unbranding” as customers follow a three-step process: 1) choose a container, 2) fill it with what you need and 3) weigh it to determine the price.
Virtually all food is sold unpackaged and customers are encouraged to purchase only what they will use immediately, thus eliminating waste. Products as diverse as olive oil, tea and spices are displayed loose – in bins, clear containers, vats and baskets with virtually no packaging or branding, other than the name of the ingredient and the price. Only a few products are sold in original packaging, such as organic canned coconut milk and wine.
The knowledgeable store staff strive to create a sense of community for the slow shopping movement (making more sustainable purchasing decisions) by providing weekly meal plans, recipes and detailed information on product sourcing.
The global brand Danone (Dannon) originated in Barcelona when Isaac Carasso – a Sephardic Jew – migrated from Thessaloniki, Greece, and named the business after his son Daniel. Casa Danone is the world-famous yogurt company’s first restaurant, opened in 2009 to celebrate Danone’s 90th anniversary.
Danone uses Casa Danone to connect its brand experience to the concept of health so that later, when customers visit the supermarket and see the Danone brands, they associate the name with good nutrition and value.
A far cry from traditional Catalonian fare, the restaurant features light and healthy food choices such as soups and salads alongside the frozen yogurt, which is made on site. Vintage Danone merchandise and memorabilia are prominently displayed and diners can visit the “yogurteria” where they customize their frozen yogurt experience with various toppings. Touchscreen kiosks share tidbits about the brand’s history.
The oldest beer in Spain, Moritz established its Barcelona headquarters in the trendy Raval district in 1856. In 2004, the beer brand founded by Frenchman Louis Moritz Trautmann was relaunched as a local brand, in strong contrast to big international beer companies such as Heineken and Carlsberg.
As part of the relaunch, it opened its flagship Fabrica Mortiz, a brewery, bar and restaurant, has been described as a cultural gastronomic center, offering flavors and products that are directly connected with Barcelona and the people who live in the city. All beer produced at Fabrica Moritz is consumed on site with a vat-to-tap system that ensures freshness.
The building, on the site of the original factory, had been meticulously rebuilt by globally renowned architect Jean Nouvel, using original materials and updated technology. If beer isn’t your thing, the expansive location also houses a tapas and wine bar, the M-Store featuring a variety of Moritz-branded and quirky merchandise, a Triticum bakery, a newsstand and a multipurpose space that can be rented for corporate meetings, parties and cultural events including movie screenings and fashion shows.
Today Moritz is a cult brand that has built a following of ardent fans. It eschews traditional television and mass media advertising in favor of “marketing below the line” via sponsorships, cobranding (watches, bicycles, motorcycle helmets) and the vintage Moritz cars that salespeople drive around the city.
These five stores have a lot of wow factor, and they also rely on several common themes to appeal to Barcelona’s “citi-sumers” such as:
– They do not just sell products, they sell lifestyles (e.g. health, family or fun)
– Storytelling conveys product features and benefits as well as brand’s history
– They use natural elements within the retail locations – water, greenery, wood, original fixtures
– Following on the natural elements, they strive to be environmentally friendly or sustainable
Special thanks to COLLOQUY Editor Jill Z. McBride for reporting assistance and photography.