Madrid: the crisis and its effects on retail – an optimist’s outlook


Madrid’s neighbourhood of Chueca is buzzing with great restaurants and cute little boutiques – far away from anything high street. Just before I had to get on the plane back to Berlin, I discovered this little gem: menswear store 42Barquillo. They describe their style as “fine casual” – a bit preppy, unconstructed jackets, colours that suit the customer who likes to have his sundowner just around the corner on the Plaza.

I had a chat with one of the owners, Gonzalo del Diego, about the crisis that hit Spain a few years ago and its effect on life and retail.

When exactly did you make the decision to open? Before the crisis hit or when it had already hit?

When it had already hit. We saw a gap for this kind of shop. There weren’t many men’s shops with the style we’re carrying, so we went for it.

What was your motivation to open the store?

The main reason was: to do what we like. We love beautiful things – fashion, design, architecture. What we wanted was to move that sensitivity to a place of our own and use it for the interaction with our clients and suppliers. I hope we get it right!

How would you describe the crisis from your personal perspective and experience?

Time to show the best of you, the bravery and maybe the madness too … many of my family and friends thought I was crazy when I quit my first business and started this one in the middle of the crisis. The decision was pretty tough and doubt did haunt me. However, times of crisis are also times of chance – to change and to improve.

How did and does the crisis affect your business?

We have less local clients and we can’t hire anybody to help us. We do what we like but we won’t get rich. Anyway, the idea is to do what we love, so we consider ourselves lucky.

How does it affect the businesses around you?

Just a couple of them closed and quickly other shops occupied their spaces, even though rents have doubled in the last four years. The situation is not good – but it isn’t as bad as people think either.

Who buys in your shop?

60 per cent locals and 40 per cent foreigners. Many of the latter are from Mexico, Switzerland, Australia …

You say that fewer people buy, but spend more. Do you think that’s a sign of a bigger social divide between the wealthy and the not so wealthy?

I’m not sure. People still buy clothes. I just think that many prefer to save money and buy less.

What’s your prediction for the next couple of years?

My opinion is that the market will grow. Things will be better.

The store is run by Gonzalo del Diego and his business partner Javier Reina.

Del Diego was running a marketing business and a good client of Reina’s when he realised that he was sick and tired of his job: “I was so interested in fashion and life is too short to waste it in a job that you don’t like, so I left the other business and joined Javier for this adventure. That was five years ago and still, every morning, I am grateful for the decision that I have made.”

Javier was a stylist for a TV channel and head of several fashion stores for men and women in Madrid before opening 42Barquillo with Del Diego. They decribe their style as fine casual. Most brands are from Italy: JWBrine, Eleventy, AT.P.CO or Manuel Ritz.

Address: 42Barquillo, Calle del Barquillo 42

My other recommendations, should you be in the area

Just have a stroll in the streets between Calle de Génova, Paseo de Recoletos, Calle Augusto de Fugueroa and Calle Hortaleza. You won’t be bored.

Great and original furniture design at Brut.

Mercado San Anton (indoor market): supermarket on ground floor; fresh produce, beautifully presented on first floor; food court above; and outdoor bar on top floor (ideal place for a sundowner).

Local and organic cuisine at Taberna la Carmencita, a beautifully kept tiled space (had the best croqueta here).

The Author

Bjoern Luedtke is a freelance journalist, editor and writer specialising in fashion and marketing