Monday, September 20


I had an amazing shopping experience this past weekend - Eataly - a full blown retail celebration of Italy that just opened in Manhattan near the corner of 23rd and 5th.

Eataly is the latest project from Italian chefs and restaurateurs Mario Batali and Lidia Matticchio along with her son Joe Bastianich. It's a concept that comes from Italy where gourmet food retailers have executed it to perfection.

The space in Manhattan is amazing as it mixes retail selections with cafes with deli counters with education about the regions and foods of Italy. You can spend hours in the place having snacks, grabbing a drink, eating a meal, and of course shopping for food to bring home. All authentically from Italy. There's even a beer garden on the roof, and a "school" where you can take cooking classes. Culinary heaven, straight from Italy.

The merchandising is perfection, much like its Italian origins. Plenty of food products and kitchen ware in every category to choose from along with posters that explain where the products come from and even how to use them. There are lots of marketing sponsorships as well, as it appears that certain brands "own" certain sections. Barilla certainly has the pasta down, and Illy has a coffee bar complete with coffee beans and machines for sale.

It's so much fun to see something new in retail, I just couldn't get enough - even though 50,000 square feet in Manhattan is no small feat.

Eataly seems to be a part of a growing trend of retail delights. Spaces that transform you to a place, where small boutiques cluster together to provide specialized merchandise that at least feels like you can't get anywhere else. Very Fred Segal and Limelight, although all Italy. After all, if you are going to compete with low cost retailers and e-commerce, you better deliver a unique, relevant, and value-added experience. And that's exactly what Eataly does, many times over.

What's your experience? Jim

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