By Roger Tagholm
Are we seeing a mini-resurgence of physical bookshops, a move towards more carefully designed spaces, places that make you want to linger? Is there a renewed fight-back against online underway, though with an online offering built into it? First, it was the grand remaking of Foyles in London’s Charing Cross Road, which led to much discussion on what a bookshop of the future should look like. Now, in Florence, the Italian publisher and bookseller Feltrinelli has opened its second RED store, part of a distinct move aimed at attracting those younger, iPad-carrying digitally aware customers, who might not necessarily frequent traditional bookshops.
The beautiful city’s La Feltrinelli RED – to give it its full name – is a very cool proposition indeed, full of stylish touches and ideas that you don’t see in other bookshops. Let’s take a look inside.
The Book-lined Restaurant
RED stands for ‘Read Eat Dream’, and the company has certainly taken each of these on board – especially Eat. The ground floor boasts a licensed restaurant cum café where you can either lunch with friends or enjoy a cappuccino while you work at your laptop. You can also buy wine and cheese and biscuitta and all manner of Italian culinary delights in what is effectively a literary deli.
The walls of A-Z fiction are broken up by separate, boxed areas, highlighting particular titles and often displaying them with related – or not, as the case may be – food and wine. It leads to enticing combinations and turns browsing into a little voyage of surprise and discovery.
A Book Balcony
This is up on the first floor, in the Art department. It’s a little ‘room of one’s own.’ All such areas in the shop were being used on this particular day. This is a store that encourages you to linger.
The shop is designed around a light-filled atrium with the first and second floors connected by a white, steel staircase suspended in the middle of the shop, almost a feature in its own right. Just below you can see the computer terminals giving access to ‘Red World,’ Feltrinelli’s online store. Elsewhere, there are tablets for customers to use.
How Many Bookstores Have One of These?
The top floor boasts a grand piano, situated – naturally – in the music department, and used for recitals, and as an additional display table. The silver air conditioning pipes have been left exposed, giving the store the feel of a Manhattan loft.
A Den of One’s Own
The children’s department even has a hidden den, accessible via a wooden tunnel beneath the shelves. This is a bold, fun innovation. Cookie-shaped colored cushions are stacked on a pole just outside.
The first RED store opened in Rome in 2012, but had to close because of structural problems with the building. Milan followed and Florence opened in April this year with Carlo Feltrinelli himself, the company’s president and CEO, on hand to serve drinks to customers. Now there are plans for RED stores in Bologna and Naples, with the company putting nearly €2m behind the program.
“The RED format is an innovative solution at a difficult time for the sector,” said Director of Business, Stefano Sardo. The company’s press officer Paoli Soraci added: “You can come to RED for different purposes — to meet your friends, just study or work, go around and browse for books, or listen to presentations that we have with artists and book authors. Bookstores are places where people meet and not only buy books.”
The company says it hopes to receive around a quarter of turnover in Florence from the restaurant, and the rest from the bookshop, which also includes an extensive range of book-related non-book product, including a small Kobo concession.
And the “Dream” Part?
Well, don’t these sleeping dogs at their owners’ feet look content to you? Hey, this is a bookshop that allows dogs. How cool is that?