WOW Concept, Dimas Gimeno’s innovative multi-brand store, opens on Madrid’s Gran Vía
The screens at Gran Vía 18 announce the countdown to one of the most anticipated openings of the season: the WOW Concept store launched by Dimas Gimeno, former president of El Corte Inglés, that combines physical and online sales and aims to attract millennial and Gen Z consumers through its carefully selected brands. On Tuesday, Feb. 9, FashionNetwork.com visited the new and impressive 5000 square-meter multi-brand space in the center of Madrid during a press conference held prior to its opening to the public.
WOW Concept, which will open its doors to the public on March 12, occupies the entire building, although for the moment only the first four floors, the ground floor, and the basement are operating. Most of the space is devoted to fashion, but the top floor is dedicated to decor while the lower floor to technology. This spring, probably after Easter, the top two floors will open with gastronomy as its main attraction.
Although the project’s description gives the impression of it being a conventional department store, a visit to WOW Concept will prove this wrong. Each floor has a different interior design (conceived by Carmelo Zappulla) based on the products it offers. Bright colors are reserved for the spaces dedicated to cosmetics and fashion from emerging brands, while a darker aesthetic makes up the urban fashion and sneakers sector.
The building’s top floor (offering decor) has Instagram-ready rooms with walls painted entirely in pale pink and sky blue reminiscent of Casa Decor, the Madrid decoration and art fair that adorns a building in the capital with interior design trends each year.
A distinctive product offering
WOW concept has continuously promised in statements and announcements a unique product range through its carefully selected brands, and it certainly kept true to its word. Trendy and desirable brands such as Nodaleto or The Attico are available at the store, which are both difficult to find in Spanish points of sale. Others include established mid-priced labels such as Samsoe Samsoe, some young Spanish brands like Amlul and Mietis, and emerging brands like Miista which offers bags and accessories. Sportswear brands Born Living Yoga and Brahdy also participate in making up the brand portfolio.
Gimeno’s new project did not forget to make room for Spanish designer labels such as Palomo, Mans, and Beatriz Peñalver who each have their own designated spaces in corners or display shelves.
Besides the aesthetic theme of each floor, two other details stand out when walking through WOW Concept for the first time: the absence of cash registers and the limited stock of items.
“There is one cash register per floor, but our intention was for the consumer to come to us, the salespeople, tell us what they want to purchase, and for us to charge them instantly through our payment terminal,” explained an employee. The shopping experience that this concept seeks to offer is omnichannel at its core: it allows customers to make purchases or add to their basket through an app from both outside the premises (thereby having their order ready to try or buy by the time they get to the store) and from inside the establishment thanks to interactive screens installed throughout different areas of the store including the fitting rooms.
As for the inventory, Gimeno himself detailed that, “We have a warehouse right here, another one in the next street, of 700 square meters, and a bigger one in Ontígola. We don't want this to be a showroom, we want to sell.” He added that the scarce number of articles displayed (one model per size, or a couple of sizes per model) is done in order to align with the minimalist identity of the concept store.
WOW Concept will open not only its physical doors to the public next Saturday, but also its digital platform. The e-commerce site will have a larger product offering. “We have up to 250 brands in our portfolio, but we have calculated that, in this physical space, we can accommodate only about 150,” explained Gimeno.
"This space is an authentic extension of the digital channel. And, honestly, I think that unless you start from scratch, it's something that can't be done in retail," said the former president of El Corte Inglés, who summarized the essence of the project in a few words: "If it exists and it's cool, we want it here.”
Intend to achieve positive Ebitda in one year
To control the store capacity limit and enhance the shopping experience, customers are asked to register in advance before accessing the building, like reserving an appointment and time slot beforehand to visit the space. “At the moment, we have four full days already,” noted Gimeno.
WOW Concept's challenge is to profit from its risky venture. The project received €8 million in its last investment round and invested significantly on infrastructure and supply. What are the prospects in economic terms? "For the moment, we are going to ask for growth and to be close to positive Ebitda in the first year of operation," added Gimeno.
According to initial estimates, sales weights are expected to tilt 80% for the physical space and 20% for the online platform, with the goal of progressively increasing the digital channel’s relevance.
Located in what was once the Roma hotel in Madrid, WOW Concept welcomes visitors on the ground floor (what was once a lobby) with two fuchsia-colored statues that seem to have been 3D printed wearing augmented reality glasses. Could the XXL-sized statues perhaps be referencing those of Ancient Rome suggesting the beginning of a new retail empire? Only time will tell.
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