My boyfriend and I have a running joke that every time you walk by a United Colors of Benetton, it's empty. There's never anyone in those stark white shops except for the employees. We take pictures in front of every Benetton we stumble upon, whether it's in Chicago, San Francisco or New York--I guarantee that, in every image, the store is empty!
To be clear, my store checks are virtually worthless. Benetton's retail numbers totally debunk my argument. In 2009, US Benettons saw a year-over-year sales increase of 3%, which is a lot better than most American retailers reported. (Benetton doesn't offer actual sales figures for the US, but the company made about $2.7 billion globally last year.)
But there's no denying Benetton's cultural significance, at least in the US, has decreased drastically over the last 20 years. Who do you know that shops at Benetton? Do you shop at Benetton? I'm doubtful.
The 1980s were a much different story, when Benetton's then-groundbreaking multicultural advertising made it a cool label to wear. I even had a Benetton Barbie. Seriously.
Anyways, I popped into a very large Benetton yesterday on the Corso Buenos Aires while waiting for the Gucci show to start. And there were people shopping! Granted, it wasn't as crowded as the H&M next store, but there was movement. It makes sense, since Benetton is an Italy-based company. But it also makes sense because there was actually some nice stuff available, including colorful handbags and rainbows of cashmere sweaters. Overall, the selection was not only much more vast, it was definitely more compelling.