One of the world’s most important department stores is expanding its luxury offerings.
Late Monday night, Spanish retailer El Corte Inglés hosted a dinner in its home city of Madrid to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Held at Street XO, the restaurant on the top floor of its menswear boutique on the posh Serrano street, the whole affair had a casual-chic, shirt-unbuttoned (albeit a designer one) vibe. The servers were interactive and knowledgeable, the setting was stylish and relaxed, and the dishes—created by the restaurant’s Michelin-starred chef David Muñoz—were sophisticated, delicious, and, at their core, very Spanish. Indeed, these are the same qualities you could use to describe the core experience of shopping El Corte Inglés, where customers (especially VIP ones) receive the red-carpet treatment in a slick setting.
As one of the largest department store chains in Europe, and the third largest in the world, El Corte Inglés has a longstanding history to uphold. Founded in 1940 as a tailor shop in the center of Madrid, the company began expanding exponentially in the '60s (it now has 89 freestanding stores worldwide), and has since branched off into other sectors, opening travel agencies, convenience stores, and hypermarkets that stand apart from its core business in fashion. On the occasion of this landmark year, the brand goes back to basics, so to speak, returning to the market that inspired its start.
“In the last few years, and specifically for our 75th anniversary, we reinforced our strategy in terms of offering luxury goods in the store—mainly in Madrid, Barcelona, Marbella, and Lisbon,” said Javier Fernandez Andrino, the company’s international marketing and luxury strategy director, right before the dinner. “We want to compete with all the luxury stores in Europe, and be the best destination for both locals and international travelers coming here to shop. Today, it is one of the main motivations to get on a plane and stay in another country.”
With the competition to attract luxury consumers steep in today's economy, many high-end retailers have shifted their focus from pushing product to offering shoppers an overarching luxury experience, and El Corte Inglés is no exception to this rule: As part of its 75th celebration, the company launched tightly curated standalone men’s and women’s stores—Serrano Man and Serrano Women (which opened last November and in March, respectively)—in the most upscale district in Madrid. Its flagship on Castellana street just debuted a VIP center—a private, roughly 200-square-foot space—where any guest or group of guests are wined and dined while expert stylists work to find the right colors and silhouettes. (This service will roll out in other locations in the coming years.) All three of these locations flaunt floors upon floors of the most coveted brands from around the globe (some of which, including Burberry and Dior Homme, have chosen El Corte Inglés as the exclusive home for their wares in the city) along with the largest selection of luxury Spanish labels, such as Loewe and Suarez.
Over the coming months, El Corte Inglés plans to refurbish its stores in Barcelona, Lisbon, and Marbella, adding the same services and amenities found in Madrid. And, while the details are spare, the brand has announced its ambition to create the largest department store in the world by 2018, also set in Spain's capital city.
“Whether it is jewelry, fashion, food, or watches, everything our customers need and want, we will provide,” said Andrino. “We want them to feel comfortable. We have worked on creating a great luxury experience. We want this to be our status quo.”
El Corte Inglés flagship store is located at Pº de la Castellana 85; elcorteingles.es. Serrano Man is located at Serrano 52, and Serrano Woman is located at Serrano 47.
By Barry Samaha