A promotion in Milan this weekend points towards a tendency for teamwork that should be emulated by retailers in this country.

A promotion in Milan this weekend points towards a tendency for teamwork that should be emulated by retailers in this country.

Stand outside Selfridges on Oxford Street and look up. Above the main door a huge, sparkly 3D sign states “Hello Beautiful”. All good, beauty is a big thing for the store acclaimed last week as the world’s best department store for the third year in a row. Yet there is the whole of the rest of central London’s principal shopping thoroughfare to consider and the beauty sector is a hot button for many retailers along the strip as well.

Now take a trip to a city south of the Alps and things appear to be being done differently. In Milan this weekend the many small retailers in the modish Brera district had clubbed together to create a beauty destination of a series of streets where rivalries are normally fierce and commercial secrets jealously guarded.

Instead, there were winsome ambassadors for the beauty promotion out on the streets handing out booklets itemising why you should take a look around and what was actually on offer.

The outcome was that trade looked brisk and plenty of punters were sat around soaking up the sunshine, some halfway decent risotto and the perfumes and unguents that were in the shops. Sunshine helps and admittedly it’s a commodity that has been in signally short supply in the UK lately, but the principal of retailer teamwork remains good. The sum of the various parts in Brera was in fact considerably greater than the individual components. Yet this kind of thing is rarely done in the UK (Vogue’s “Big Night Out” notwithstanding and that’s for fashion anyway).

The point perhaps is that as well as a good looking shop, for a retailer to enjoy real success and to attract shoppers in a way that might not otherwise be possible, it helps if alliances are made. The idea is hardly new. Medieval ‘guilds’ were about making destinations of locations in a way that would mean there was no point in going elsewhere for a specific commodity or service.

So why is this kind of thing such an infrequent occurrence? What this all equates to is retail teamwork and yes, there will of course be rivalry, but this doesn’t mean that groups of like-minded traders wouldn’t be better off together, at least sporadically and for promotional purposes.

The whole of Oxford Street as a beauty destination? It does have the ring of improbability about it, but there is just a chance that it might actually work and offer incremental sales across the board.