Dimas Gimeno on new WOW concept store and phygital retail, sets sights on global expansion
The long-awaited opening of WOW in Madrid became a reality this month, on March 12. The company defines the concept store as a “retail reset” and as “phygital”. In other words: an imposing 5,550-square-meter, eight story space located in Gran Vía 18 in Madrid that, in addition to its traditional physical retail channel, also features an online sales platform where trendy and emerging brands can be found on a “temporary and rotating” basis. This experimental fashion concept centers around technology and has its sights set on the future of retail, combining the opportunities of both online and offline sales under the same umbrella.
"WOW is going to be something really innovative, hence its name," said the founder of the concept store, Dimas Gimeno, at the inauguration of the central cutting-edge space, which occupies the iconic Hotel Roma building built in 1915. FashionNetwork.com interviews the businessman and former president of El Corte Inglés about the revolutionary project.
FashionNetwork.com: When did the idea for WOW come about? How did you manage to make such a strong bid on the physical front after the pandemic period caused the physical retail channel to suffer so much?
Dimas Gimeno: This project began about three years ago, before the pandemic started. We think that retail is evolving towards the development of phygital experiential platforms where brands have a leading role and can deploy their emotional and digital connections. We believe this period is opening a window of opportunity for concepts like WOW to prove that retail can be fun again.
FNW: What are the biggest risks you see in the physical channel and how can the downturn in tourism and the store-attraction effect negatively impact it?
D.G: Our project is a completely innovative concept that was conceived as "phygital" from the very first minute, with brands playing a leading role in connecting with their existing customers in a different way while gaining access to new customer segments.
FNW: How do you envision the relationship between physical and digital at WOW? What are your business prospects for each channel, what percentage of turnover should each represent?
D.G: This question is difficult for us to answer because, as WOW is a "phygital" concept in which both channels are integrated, it’s hard to separate one from the other. However, if we had to estimate percentages, we could say that the sales that should preferably enter through the physical channel would be 20% and the sales that enter through the digital channel would be 80%. We believe that there is currently a unique market opportunity.
FNW: How much has been invested in the project and what are the medium-term sales and profitability objectives?
D.G: We cannot provide that information since it is confidential, however, as an indicator of what this project entails, we can say that it has been a successful investment as we have covered 100% of all the rounds of enlargement we have carried out and there has been a huge amount of interest from investors.
FNW: How many brands do you intend to offer both in-store and online? Could you describe the type of agreements you have with the brands and the selection you plan on keeping? What about inventory management?
D.G: WOW emerges with 250 fashion, beauty, home décor, technology and gastronomy brands. More than 200 firms form part of WOW, 70 of which will be physically located in the Gran Vía building. We have agreements for all the brands, although we have taken into account the specificities of some of them and have tailored them accordingly.
As for the stock, there are brands for which we manage the inventory and shipments, while with others the arrangements are that they are in charge of their inventory management and shipments.
FNW: Who forms part of the management team and what are their responsibilities?
D.G: There are multidisciplinary teams that have served us well in adjusting the project both from the point of view of the business model (brand, product selection, "phygital" integration, values) and the operating model (processes, people and organization, systems, infrastructure). We have assembled a solid management team with experience in leading domestic and foreign companies.
FNW: How many jobs has WOW created or will create in the future?
D.G: More than 130 jobs have been created for the WOW start-up.
FNW: Do you plan on expanding the concept through physical or pop-up stores in other cities or countries?
D.G: Yes, the truth is that WOW started as an international venture. We didn't work on such a complex project to just settle with the Gran Vía store and the online marketplace. We think that a concept like WOW makes sense when it has international ambition and that is what we are thinking about doing at the moment, once we manage to stabilize the operational structure to replicate it abroad. We already have offers from several countries.
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