Shops: the value of relationships with customers and suppliers

Shops: the value of relationships with customers and suppliers

The outlets present at the latest edition of Milano Home reflect on their future. The role of the exhibition? An unmissable opportunity to meet, listen and discuss with colleagues and suppliers

Milano Home attempted to gather around it the protagonists of the world of furnishing accessories and household objects, both from Italy and abroad, and the first feedback received from operators indicates that the path taken is the right one. In particular, the world of retail shops have produced opinions and suggestions, evaluations and expectations for the next edition. And it was precisely on the points of sale that Milano Home wanted to turn the spotlight, investigating the dynamics and needs of businesses anchored to the territory by listening to their comments, problems and requests in order to fine-tune the exhibition.


Bottazzi Casalinghi: "The point of sale must offer an all-round service"

Founded in the early 1970s, Bottazzi Casalinghi is the classic family-run shop specialising in household goods and small electrical appliances. Another sales outlet has also been open for a few years now, completing the wide range of kitchen and furniture solutions. From knife sharpening to wedding lists to hotel supplies, tradition and innovation come together in the two shops in Reggio Emilia.



What is the biggest challenge for a physical shop?


“Today, the number of competitors has increased, and I am not just referring to competition from the web,” says Andrea Bottazzi (first from the left in the photo with Fabrizio Bottazzi and his wife, Cinzia Beneventi). “Sales in shopping centres also represent a pitfall for the traditional shop, which must be able to interpret the buyer's wishes. But easier said than done. Today, the customer not only demands a product but also a service. The retailer must be prepared to offer adequate product information and provide assistance before, during and after the sales phase. The shop is no longer just a showcase for displaying the items on sale, but also a place shoppers must be sure of having access to advice.”


The world of commerce has changed, “compared to 20 to 30 years ago, it has undergone profound transformations,” Bottazzi continues, “but the new structure has not been properly managed by all players in the supply chain. It is not enough to just show up in the shop with a tablet to change approach, we need to understand what the merchants' real needs are. Many companies still do not understand what the priorities of small retail are, ranging from setting up a proper human relationship to the need to redefine traditional ordering: small quantities and fast shipping, that's what a shop needs.”



At Milan Home you were able to take the pulse of the market. What impressions did you gain from the exhibition?


"It is a key event, meeting up with the trade is essential. In order to believe in a product, I need to see it, understand its real potential, have direct contact and discuss it with the proposing company.”



Libri in Piazza: “The shop must focus on opportunities for meeting”


A story of love and passion for books was what led Brenda Lazzeretti to open Libri in Piazza on 29 July, a small bookshop in Marciana Marina, the smallest municipality on the island of Elba.


"We believe that supporting cultural activities is a great way to support healthy communities," says Lazzeretti, who leads a team of enterprising young people.



What is the role of a shop today?


"To offer professionalism and competence in establishing a human relationship. There is a great need for relationships and a shop must first offer this, in addition to courtesy and helpfulness. Today, unfortunately, we are no longer used to sharing, people are reluctant to exchange opinions, interact with one another. The shop must focus on opportunities for meeting, to make the customer experience emotions that we are in danger of forgetting.”



What is the value of meeting suppliers and colleagues at an exhibition like Milano Home?


"Meetings, relationships are always little gems worth collecting. Every event gives you something that makes you grow and become richer.”

If “quality, combined with a good image, can make the product indispensable”, one of the aspects on which progress needs to be made is the relationship with suppliers.

“It has to be a relationship of mutual listening,” explains Lazzeretti, “and, if opinions do not coincide, one which allows the parties to find the best solution to guarantee development.”



Elite Casa: "A more fruitful dialogue between the links in the supply chain is needed”


"The shop? It must be able to carry traditions into the future by educating the consumer through beauty.” Gianandrea Corini, managing partner of Elite Casa – a showroom in Brescia that has been offering furnishing and table accessories by the most renowned Italian and international brands for 45 years – is strongly convinced of this.

"We must continue to transmit those fundamental values of our company through professional and knowledgeable sales, aimed at a selection of increasingly higher quality products, handcrafted if possible, taking into account the latest developments in the sector and the needs of the end user.”


A goal that must also be pursued through amore fruitful dialogue with suppliers and the other outlets. "I consider meetings with suppliers and colleagues to be crucial: I have always believed in collaboration, in healthy and constructive dialogue so that together we can achieve that fundamental role mentioned above: alone you cannot go far, you can lay a good path and you have to start from there, but only together can you really make a difference for the present and the future, with a good focus on the past.”  


The exhibition is the ideal setting in which to nurture comparisons and exchanges of views and Milano Home, according to Corini, has been able to grasp the needs of the protagonists of the various sectors represented.

"I have been going to the exhibition since I was a child and I have always appreciated the idea of seeing and learning from the 'best'. My dream is that Milano will once again become the reference exhibition for the home sector, just as the Salone del Mobile is for the furniture sector.”


At the heart of the Milano Home project is the will to turn the spotlight on specialised shops, a bridge to the end customer. At the same time, in order to grow in the market, each player must correctly play its own role, working in synergy with all the actors in the sectors involved.  


"I fully agree with the idea behind the event, but unfortunately today we have all lost sight of this thought. There is little dialogue between companies, shopkeepers and agents, but I am convinced that right now we can get back to doing the job properly, each with his or her own skills, potential and professionalism, and with the common goal of contributing to the future and to the evolution of the sector, not only with numbers and turnover, but also through quality, beauty and above all culture.”



Stella Alpina: “Milano Home is a beautiful window on the world”


The concept behind Milano Home is transversal, the exhibition talks in a language and offers content that is open to all kinds of businesses, large or small. In particular, it has been able to offer elements of attraction even to those who have decided to open a shop for the first time, offering a privileged angle of view to find their way through the folds of a market in constant ferment.


This is the case of Stella Alpina, a “small shop that I opened in Colico, a village in the upper Lake Como area,” explains Lycia Mazzini. A charming place for natural beauty but “very difficult as a sales patch. When I decided to open, I did it with all the enthusiasm and passion in the world, which I still haven't lost, but to this day I don't know if I will be able to make the business survive, because the income brought in by tourists is not enough for the whole year.”


From furniture and DIY to home decoration items – vases, figurines and doorstops – there are many ideas and solutions in the shop.

For Mazzini, participating in Milano Home turned out to be a rewarding and more than positive experience, to the point of expressing an invitation for the next edition.


"It was my first time as a trader, what I do know is that taking part in exhibitions like Milano Home is a charge of energy, get up and go, innovation and reciprocity that is essential for those in this trade. Especially those who live and work in small towns risk losing touch with current tastes and sales trends and strategies. Milano Home is a beautiful window on the world, which brings inspiration and allows you to expand your network of suppliers. Next year I hope to find even more artisans from home and abroad, who are the ultimate expression of talent in our industry.