Economic News Dimas Gimeno reinvents retail with Wow after El Corte Inglés: "Traditional is no longer enough"

And now what do I do? This is what Dimas Gimeno Álvarez (Madrid, 1975) asked himself upon leaving El Corte Inglés, the department store firm par excellence that he presided over between 2014 and 2018 and whose founding family he belongs to, as he recalled in conversation with Actualidad

Economic News Dimas Gimeno reinvents retail with Wow after El Corte Inglés: "Traditional is no longer enough"

And now what do I do? This is what Dimas Gimeno Álvarez (Madrid, 1975) asked himself upon leaving El Corte Inglés, the department store firm par excellence that he presided over between 2014 and 2018 and whose founding family he belongs to, as he recalled in conversation with Actualidad. Economical. At that time he was barely 43 years old and refused to give up the industry that he was passionate about, to which until now he had dedicated practically his entire professional career and to which he considered that he still had "a lot to contribute."

What he did was travel and soak up the digital world. He chose the most developed markets in this area as his destination and exchanged impressions with the actors who were carrying it out. The United States, Latin America and China were some of the locations where he began to build the idea of ​​developing a truly unique project. And years of intense work later, Wow Concept was born, the disruptive commercial space model that has an exclusive design and includes everything from fashion brands to decoration, beauty, technology and gastronomy products. It opened its first store in March 2022 on Gran Vía in Madrid and has just opened its second on Serrano Street.

The location chosen on the capital's golden mile is not trivial. The building housed one of the El Corte Inglés centers for years. "When we learned that they were abandoning that location, it took us very little time to decide that it was a building that we could not escape," he reveals. "I know that building very well, but the fact that we have rented it is simply because it was a unique opportunity. There are no buildings of that size in that location. It is a much more rational decision than one might think," he explains. .

Having overcome a question that he understands as "obligatory", he goes on to explain what Wow is, who it addresses and what it offers its clients. The project is based on three pillars: offering different brands, integrating physical and online channels and attracting a young and digital consumer. "It is a type of customer that no one has, who is in trend and new, has purchasing power and loves stores, but does not go to physical stores because they do not stimulate him or find a different reason to go," he explains. Gimeno.

The president and founder of Wow understands that if they do the first and the second well, they will achieve the third. That is, if they manage to attract different brands, digital natives, who have the influencers behind them - who are today the prescribers - and if they manage to overcome distribution by channels by uniting both channels in a phygital model (physical and digital) they will reach that young customer who is trendy and has money to spend.

When analyzing his professional career, the simile with the evolution of commerce is inevitable. From El Corte Inglés to Wow, from physical to omnichannel, in short, from traditional to modern. However, the intention of Dimas Gimeno and his partners is not to limit the presence of brands in their stores to those digital natives that, in many cases, they will bring to the physical world exclusively, but to expand the offer to traditional brands, more established in the retail business, always, of course, presenting themselves differently. "I attract digital brands and attract the attention of traditional ones, but I ask the latter not to give me the same corner that they would put elsewhere. So, they consider bringing launches in ad hoc formats for Wow, for example," details the businessman.

In this business planning process, previous experience as manager of family department stores has been key: "El Corte Inglés is the great place for brands. There I had the opportunity to work with the best and I was able to understand very well What do they want? In the past, they wanted the distributor to generate value for them with many physical points of sale, because it was the way to enter a market, but today that is not enough, we must offer them other elements. Of course, they want to sell a lot. ", but also positioning and connecting with other audiences. It is this rethinking of the brand-distributor relationship that I am, modestly, reinventing, going towards the generation of a different value, more appropriate to the reality we live in."

It is not the only learning that Dimas Gimeno takes away from ECI. "It is the most important department store company in Europe and one of the most important in the world. There are learnings that are unique, of which I am very proud and that I am obviously putting into practice, even if it is in a different way," he says. He refers, for example, to the management of spaces and large staff. "But always from the basic principles of distribution," he concludes.

Gimeno makes his second start in less than two years. He recognizes that he is risky, but he is convinced that both stores can coexist without "cannibalizing" each other, since Gran Vía is aimed at a premium, urban and younger profile, while Serrano looks at luxury shopping. The tailwind comes from tourism: "In Madrid it doesn't stop growing," he says. Not in vain, more than half of his clients are foreign tourists who stroll through the commercial hub par excellence of the Spanish capital. And he does it at a crucial time of the year for consumption, at the threshold of a Christmas campaign for which he manages "the best possible prospects."

Wow proposes a very different business model from that of the conventional retailer that relies on experience and technology. The project promoted by powerful investment funds such as Vertical Partners, which is the second largest shareholder, only behind Gimeno, aims to achieve profitability in 2025 with a turnover of around 100 million euros. He is also already looking at other cities, such as Barcelona, ​​and is even considering jumping abroad once he manages to consolidate the brand.