When most people think of Italy, the first things that come to mind are mouth-watering pasta with sweet tomato sauces and basil, Tuscan farm houses, artisan craftsmanship, atrfully designed automotives, lovingly crafted housewares, and immaculately dressed exotic people. Italians have carefully nurtured a vision, and in many instances, portray the perfectly designed life through a luxurious and rhythmic attention to design and detail. Visit Italy and you're a fan for life, eat the food and you're momentarily transported there. The Italian styled life is one that includes flavor, elegance, simplicity and passion. Whether it's Tod's, Gucci, Ferrari, illi, Flex Form, Vespa, or Inter Milan, each does their part to perpetuate the romantic vision of the Italian culture through their brand.
Mario Batali's brilliantly named Eataly  in New York is a breathtaking food emporium that is a must-visit destination, a living celebration of Italy's culinary wonderfulness. Visit Eataly and the name comes to life the instant you open the door. It is part living museum, part gourmet grocery, part happening bar and restaurant with multiple cafes, provincial foods from all corners of Italy, and beautiful kitchen and dining items all in one fantastically designed shopping heaven. And one would be remiss if one didn't mention the immaculately dressed, gorgeous people.
The romantic vision of Italian living is vibrantly alive in the halls of Eataly, the place is packed with people shopping, eating, drinking, browsing, talking, smiling and enjoying the experience of everything Italy. Whether by design or a stroke of luck (likely the former), this cultural mecca has brilliantly captured the essence of Italy in a store. Whether you're a retailer, restaurateur or in the business of creating experiences, there is much to be learned from this well-curated brand:
From Merchant to Purveyor
As the JCPenneys, Best Buys, Walmarts, and the Sears of this world reflect on their future and maintaining or evolving relationships with their consumers, they could learn a lot from the underlying fundamentals of Eataly's merchandising mentality by returning to the art of purveying and celebrating the products they sell rather than just merchandising them.
From Merchandising to Tantalizing
While you might argue that it's easy to tantalize the senses with food, you can also rouse an appetite for spending through design. Apple certainly showed that when museum-brand simplicity meets well-lit club, computers and phones fly off the shelves. Anthropologie’s resemblance of a European outdoor market has made it a top shopping destination for lifestyle products for women. Very few retailers appear to think about their stores as destinations, but in doing so they might be leaving business on the table.
From Dull to Delightful Destination
There is nothing dull about Eataly. It's a destination that encourages discovery and promises surprises and delight in each area of the emporium, guaranteeing a sensual journey rather than another average shopping experience. A brilliantly simple brand strategy subtly encourages and attracts consumers to spend more time in the store.
Take a trip to Eataly for inspiration, and challenge your team to redefine your consumer experience through the energy of your brand.
Shawn Parr is the The Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond , an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie's Homegrown, The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND .
[Image: Flickr user Italo Treno ]