Lugano, Les Ambassadeurs to close in via Nassa - is this the start of things to come?

BUSINESS

The historic jewelry Les Ambassadeurs is preparing to say goodbye to the city center after almost forty years - It may not be the only weighty departure along the luxury route, Gucci’s name has also popped into conversation , even if the company denies it

 Lugano, Les Ambassadeurs to close in via Nassa - is this the start of things to come?
© CDT / CHIARA ZOCCHETTI

Lugano, Les Ambassadeurs to close in via Nassa - is this the start of things to come?

© CDT / CHIARA ZOCCHETTI

 Lugano, Les Ambassadeurs to close in via Nassa - is this the start of things to come?
CDT / CHIARA ZOCCHETTI

Lugano, Les Ambassadeurs to close in via Nassa - is this the start of things to come?

CDT / CHIARA ZOCCHETTI

‘The news arrived on Christmas Eve’.

This is how the secretary of Via Nassa Association Mario Tamborini commented on the news of the closure of the Les Ambassadeurs jewelery shop in via Nassa 5, ‘one of the most historic in Lugano’. The news reached employees just before Christmas like a bitter gift box under the tree. Yesterday staff members had started dismantling.

Tamborini claims not to be aware of the reasons that led to the decision of the luxury watch and jewelry house to leave Lugano. ‘However, it seems it was a company choice dictated by the crisis. I understand that they have also decided to close the boutique in St. Moritz to concentrate their activities in the other branches’. In addition to the offices in Lugano and St. Moritz, the house founded in 1964 has stores in Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne and Luxembourg.

A closure like this is clearly collateral damage linked to the pandemic: we tried to contact the company headquarters and the management of the boutique, who for prefer not to comment.

The boutique has been in town for almost forty years. It opened in 1983 at number 11 via Nassa and in 2010 it moved to number 5. In the golden age, ten people worked there, in recent years that number had halved. Owned by the company Swisslife Asset Managers Luxembourg, the building is therefore preparing to remain empty (we have no requests and frankly I see it hard) says Tamborini and the departure of the boutique brings attention back to the crisis of trade in the city in general and in via Nassa in particular. ‘It seemed to me that before the lockdown last spring there had been a good resumption of luxury activities but a closure like this is clearly a collateral damage linked to the pandemic: it is the first strong sign of a crisis. We hope that a domino effect does not occur’.

A domino effect that has actually already begun to be talked about. It seems that in the coming months even Gucci, currently at house number 2, will leave via Nassa and that negotiations are underway to terminate some employment relationships . ‘A voice that I have heard too, but for now I do not know more’ Yesterday evening, however, Claudio Monteverde, Gucci’s head of corporate communcations, denied the news of the departure from Lugano without providing further details.

For some time we have been arguing that the whole economy of Via Nassa must be rethought but there is a big problem: the cost of rentals. It has not been a subject come to light now and the discussions about the future of the luxury road in a world, that of today’s Lugano, far removed from the golden years of the financial center. The coup de grace came with the pandemic (just think of the absence of shopping tourists, especially the Chinese who arrived on purpose by bus). The desire to reinvent oneself, without distorting oneself.

‘For some time we have been arguing that the whole economy of via Nassa must be rethought - confirmed Tamborini - but there is a big problem: the cost of rents. In some cases it is feasible to engage in a discussion with owners and some have successfully succeeded, but in others it is impossible, especially if the property is no longer in Lugano. The big companies have no interest and the space risks being left empty for a long time. As an association we advise the owners to go to meet the tenants but we cannot do more than this’. The issue of rents was the focus of the study conducted a couple of years ago by USI to shed light on the closure, particularly with the crisis in 2017, of many businesses on the street.

Recently, however, there has been a positive note, the secretary of the Mario Tamborini Association emphasizes. ‘Before Christmas, the Kartell furniture shop arrived in front of the Coop (it moved to via Nassa from via Pioda) its presence represents the beginning of a change along the way. Despite being luxury, it is something else than jewelers and boutiques’.

Overpriced rents and differences of opinion between the owners

In 2018, USI developed a study to understand the causes of the Lugano trade crisis, focusing on the rental problem, also raised by Mario Tamborini in his reflection on the departure of Les Ambassadeurs. ‘Rents - we read - become a problem when the income statement of a shop starts to become a worry. Faced with this obvious difficulty, intelligent owners have understood and renegotiated the figure. On the other hand, others were impassive, preferring a vacant and abandoned place to a loss of income. Which is senseless since these buildings are from the 70s and 80s and their costs have already been covered’. And on via Nassa the researchers had not used words: ‘It is losing prestige, it has lost its glamor and is perceived as the way of the rich elderly: not very lively, inaccessible and not youthful. However, like every city that has its own way of luxury, Lugano too must have one’. The study had identified the via Nassa Association as its main interlocutor. An association that, as we have seen, aims for renewal, but dealing with the changing society and with property owners who do not compromise makes everything much more complicated.

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