Is Retailtainment by Eataly the New Retailing Frontier?

The growth of online and multichannel retailing has impacted footfall through traditional bricks and mortar stores. As a result, retailers have attempted to reinvent their stores and offer more than a shopping experience in a bid to attract customers. In this framework, Eataly, by adding entertainment to its grocery shopping experience, represents a refreshing model that can inspire the strategy of other retailers.

Eataly Leverages on the Artistic Heritage of its Flagship Store’s Venue

Eataly has combined its essence as a high-end grocery retailer with an entertainment and cultural venue proposition. The retailer, which has 26 stores worldwide, opened its flagship store on 18 March in Piazza XXV Aprile in Milan, close to the nightlife hotspots of Brera and Corso Como. It is also close to the business district of Porta Nuova, an area at the centre of a regeneration project that is reshaping the city’s skyline in preparation for Expo 2015.

The store’s building, Teatro Smeraldo, used to be an important concert venue, where international and Italian artists have performed over the years. Visitors are reminded of this as they come in by way of posters of Milanese celebrities, including Adriano Celentano and Giorgio Gaber, hanging among the emerald green-coloured columns of the theatre. The reference to the venue’s glorious musical past also features in the centre of the store, where, in a position visible from every corner of the 3-storey building, the stage of the former theatre has been retained. It features a piano and musical instruments, which are intended to be played by performers during events held in store.

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The focus on entertainment is not limited to the building’s past. The outlet is conceived as a venue where consumers can experience ‘food shows’, including cooking demonstrations, and see how food products are made. The store comprises five spaces where consumers can see how fresh pasta, including tortellini, and bread are produced; they can also see how more laborious fresh cheeses, including mozzarella and ricotta, are made in the ‘Mozzarella Show’ area. Moreover, bookable events are regularly held, including seminars on food and beverages, such as Sicilian cuisine classes, and wine tastings.

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The store is also a foodservice hotspot, comprising a selection of 15 restaurants and cafés, including a branch of the Michelin-starred Alice restaurant. It is located on the second floor in a space that overlooks Piazza XXIV Maggio, with interiors designed by Starchitect Renzo Piano. The store opens until 24.00hrs daily, allowing customers time to dine in the restaurants till late.

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There is no danger that the visitor, overwhelmed by the entertainment offer, will overlook the grocery store essence of the outlet. In fact, Eataly’s food and drinks grocery core business remains the main attraction, with an open market-style fruit and vegetable space on the ground floor, aisles of delicatessen and speciality food produce, corners with market-style butchers and fishmongers, and an extensive wine and craft beer selection on the third floor. The store also includes a cooking and food specialist bookstore and a cookware store.

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Is the Retailtainment Model Exportable to Other Retailers?

Adding more to the regular in-store shopping experience is a strategy that retailers worldwide have started to adopt in a bid to encourage consumers to visit bricks and mortar stores. However, so far, this has been mainly limited to offering additional foodservice opportunities to shoppers. Whole Food Market offers a canteen-style restaurant in most of its stores worldwide, while grocery retailer Tesco recently revamped a number of its larger stores in the UK to include Harris and Hoole coffee shops and Giraffe restaurants. Eataly suggests a retail model that goes beyond the in-store foodservice offering, by positioning its outlets as entertainment and cultural venues. Although this model is easier to apply to high-end stores in prime locations, integrating the in-store offering with events and workshops of interest to the local community, with the aim of increasing consumer footfall, can constitute a strategy also suitable for retailers located in smaller communities or in peripheral areas.