The works on the well-known Barcelona thoroughfare, Avinguda Diagonal, began a few days ago.
This is a huge challenge that encompasses a wealth of new opportunities and which we have already seen, from the viewpoint of the effect it had on a very special area, Passeig de Gràcia, with its recent renovation.
Going shopping increasingly requires an exercise in benchmarking, seeking products, comparing prices, choosing and combining products … in short, it involves a concentration of supply and the specialisation of particular shopping precincts.
In commerce-city relations you don’t have to dig too deep to find that from the very first days of cities there were close ties between the appearance and justification of the urban phenomenon and the development of commercial activities.
In pre-industrial cities, urban commerce was located in the ground floors of blocks of residential buildings which constituted the essential urban unit. The territorial logic that bound this pre-industrial trade model was a certain functional segregation by streets, or sometimes neighbourhoods, with the same professions and/or trades grouped together. Many of Barcelona’s street names speak to this past, including carrers Argenters (or ‘Silversmiths’ street’), Llibreteres (book stores), Banys Nous (new thermal baths) and the neighbourhoods Teixidors (Weavers), Adobers (tanners) and so on.
What movement is taking place in the core geographical area of La Diagonal? Nothing other than this specialisation of the commercial space, although differently to how it was done in our cities in the past and with certain nuances.
This concentration of supply is in some cases the result of a fully planned project and in other cases, such as that of La Diagonal, the outcome of common sense on the part of the business owners themselves, who have researched the area that generates the greatest opportunities and where locating their sales point is most suitable, whether because of the zone, the commercial mix or the availability of square metres that some businesses require, such as in the present case of home goods and equipment (furniture, décor and homewear).
Let’s take a look at a number of examples, such as Bo Concept, Natura House, Casa Claramunt, La Maison du Monde, Pilma, A loja do Gato Preto, Zara Home, Tenue Design and Habitat, which are located on La Diagonal and are now being shored up by the presence, following openings in the past year, by other businesses including Deko Palace, the German company that set up shop in the space formerly occupied by the prestigious local store Biosca&Botey, and recent arrivals such as Casa Viva, the Catalan company that is expanding boldly and strategically, and Zwilling J.A. Henckels, the German cutlery and home accessories firm which has taken over the premises of Galerías del Tresillo.
Clearly something is afoot in La Diagonal: remember, too, that Habitat recently moved back into the neighbourhood and other companies have opened which, while not as close to this commercial axis, also shore up the act of consumer comparisons in the furniture sector. Examples include Matratzem and Dormity, further along La Diagonal, as well as Gems Barcelona on the neighbouring street Balmes, Mer&Cia and En Linea Barcelona on carrer Còrsega and, a bit further away, El Mercader de venecia…
This is also a trend we see in other European cities, where certain hubs of commercial offers have developed, taking advantage of the driving force of the concentration of supply in a particular sector or product specialisation.
Movements like the one taking place in La Diagonal are consolidating the specialisation of supply in furniture, home décor and homewear, making these sectors more practical and attractive for shoppers and, above all, starting from the remodelling of La Diagonal, giving the area a more shopping-precinct feel. This is the necessary object of an urban development work: to boost the development of new commercial activities or reinforce the ones already there.
Maria Segarra, retail specialist and director of Competitiveness and Training at the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce