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John Ryan

How Much Should You Flex a Format?

Catering to a British audience, Eataly sets up shop in the U.K.

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So we’ve got an Eataly in London. Yes, the Italian food, drink and dining theme park that is the Eataly experience has turned up on London’s Broadgate, on the edge of the financial district, a place that at any other time would be awash with well-heeled shoppers.

The mild problem posed by the pandemic is that, in spite of lockdown restrictions being eased, a lot of City types are still WFH (working from home), meaning that the amount of cash circulating in the area is not quite as great as might originally have been anticipated. When coupled with the fact that there are almost no tourists in London currently, this is a store that must appeal to the home crowd.

Perhaps with this in mind, what stands out about this Eataly outpost (it’s got two floors, three restaurants and trades from 42,000 square feet) is the fact that it’s a little different from what might be found in, say, New York. Practically, this means that on entry, the visitor is greeted by La Via del Dolce (aka Sweet Street), a long corridor with colored fairground lights in which confectionaries that are Italian(ish) can be bought by weight.

This is the sort of thing that will chime with Brits, as will the wine department on the upper floor in which the stock is organized by region, rather than color or grape varietal. Then there’s the pasta. There are, apparently, 125 different kinds of the stuff in this store and OK, we may be British, but we do like different shapes on our plate.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this is a British Eataly, different in parts from what will be encountered in the U.S., France, Germany or Italy, for example. There is no mistaking where you are, but this has been tailored for its location, and it goes to show that there is considerable largesse when it comes to the matter of flexing a format.

It may be a cliché, but thinking global and acting local really does matter.

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Be sure to check vmsd.com during the month of June for a web exclusive detailing more about the U.K.’s first Eataly.

Photography: Courtesy of John Ryan, London

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.

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