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Cocor – the unfortunate story of a failed luxury project (Romania)

Cocor Store

One year later than first announced, the Cocor Store is just what it says: a store.  The official website is www.cocorstore.ro, but the former URL, www.cocorluxurystore.ro is still active. Negotiations with the “big absentees” from the Romanian luxury market ended before time. There will be no Prada, Gucci, Brioni in the Cocor Store in the foreseeable future. In fact, Gucci’s main street flagship store opening is about to take place, about two miles away from Cocor, at the ground floor of Athenee Palace Hilton’s landmark neo-classic building.

The Cocor project failed to meet no less than three deadlines before the opening. During the past three years, Bucharest inhabitants were constantly announced that this would be the Capital’s first and main luxury shopping destination. In October 2008, Cocor press releases said that 40% of the space is already under contract, that 200 requests for stores within Cocor were denied, that 60% of the brands will be luxury brands, and that Versace, Mac Cosmetics, Armani, Gucci, Ferre, Calvin Klein, Dupont, Fendi, Longchamps, Chanel, Dior, Vertu, Burberry, Givenchy and Loewe are interested in participating in the Cocor Luxury Store project. Out of all these, there are a few Dupont lighters and some Ferre and Calvin Klein outlet items.

At the end of September 2010, both classic and new media received the new Cocor with huge disappointment. Luxury was forgotten.

Upon nearing and then entering the building, one thing becomes obvious: the designer had some inspiration. According to the Cocor website, it’s an award winning design company that also handled the Hyundai Department Store project. The neighboring benches and the media façade look great. The LED screens, adding up to Eastern Europe’s largest media façade continue to advertise absent brands. A minute for Dior, another for Burberry and so on. Still, as you enter you see costs were cut here and there. Some of the design elements are really expensive. Some are not. In fact, some look as if they were bought from one of the hundred near-Bucharest wholesale cheap stores.

And another shiver down the spine: half of the stores and counters on the ground floor and in the basement are exactly the same as they were before the long and costly renovation, evaluated by owners at some 18 million dollars, out of which 4 millions just for the façade. Cheap jewelry, mostly silver. Orange and Vodafone stores (normal ones, not concept stores). The only good things – two semi-organic stuff stores, with gourmet cookies, sugar, coffee, tea and other alike: CTS Corner and Whittard of Chelsea.

Lots of light, everywhere, and not for a better sensation. In fact, since there’s a lot of fashionable white, the light makes the see store even emptier than it is.

Because this is the first sensation when you start strolling around: an empty store. Not just because there were 20-30 customers on all seven floors, but because most stores offer very few articles. Each floor has its own café and lots of empty space, one of the symptoms of a non-existing luxury market: people don’t go shopping, they just go someplace to be seen “as if” they were shopping. From this point of view, there’s no difference between Cocor and any of the malls in Bucharest.

There are a few luxury brands, offered via to “Just 4 you” stores, one for women, one for men. Still, we talk multi-brands here, old collections and, worst of all, outlet articles with new collection prices. The best looking store, with the most attractive clothes and accessories was the medium level, youthful Cocoa brand. The Vinexpert wine bar is also a nice place to be, but the wine selection proves that the owners expect middle class clients.

One thing that no other store has and you can find it in Cocor is the virtual wardrobe. Step in, undress, then you are scanned, uploaded and you never have to return: you can access your account and try on all clothes that fit your size, from all the stores within Cocor.

As you go up, you find the Romanian designers gallery, which may be the most depressive corner in Bucharest. Not only the that that maybe one percent of all clothes are worth even seeing, but prices challenge the world’s most coveted designers. Not to mention the Prada and Burberry “inspired” bag you can find in one of the most notorious Romanian designers’ store. And once again, lots of empty spaces. Lots of white, not even a photo or a painting hanging on the wall. Then it’s the children’s level, the fifth and last, where luxury is really present, but only through prices, not merchandise. Disney and Lego over-evaluated toys, but no silk scarves, velvet Halloween suits of any of  the kind.

The question remains: where are the brands? What happened to the luxury? Even the drug store is a no-name, compared to the pretty decent pharmacy chains in Bucharest. Silver dirt cheap, “serious” brands like Pierre Cardin, Seroussi, Josef Seibel, Flavio Castellani, Vittorio Marchese, Diesel, Rifle, Anna Rachele, Pompea, Acousma and all others, the usual interior design things one can find next door, in the Unirea Shopping Center. Hard to imagine how the Geta Voinea clients pass through all this on their way to the beauty center.

Meanwhile, designers and actors keep up a strong print media campaign supporting Cocor. Most of them refer to the Communist days, when Cocor was a shopping landmark. With the stuff they’re selling, it’s not much of a difference, really.

Radu Rizea

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