High-end Heaven: the Man Behind Brazil’s Luxury Retail Chain

Carlos Jereissati Jr has a long and impressive history in the world of Brazilian retail. His father, Carlos Jereissati Sr, was responsible for opening Brazil's first shopping centre in 1966. From an early age Carlos Jr was immersed in consumer culture: "My father used to pay me and my sister to count how many shopping bags we could spot in the mall, so we developed a passion for this business early on."

In 2005, Carlos Jereissati Jr was appointed President and CEO of Iguatemi - the Brazilian retail group that will oversee the running of 17 shopping malls by the end of this year. Over the last decade, Carlos has brought countless iconic European fashion brands to Brazilian consumers including Lanvin, Prada, Tod's, Dolce & Gabbana and Bottega Veneta, designers who had previously no direct access to the seventh largest economy in the world.

Not only that, Carlos has made sure that the Iguatemi outposts function as much more than ports of entry for luxury brands. A well-known patron of the arts, Jereissati Jr has launched successful art programs across the shopping centres, featuring installations within the complexes for shoppers to enjoy, as well as hosting regular cultural events and exhibitions. To support this, Iguatemi has also implemented interactive technology within the malls, to further engage customers with the works of art featured.

SUITCASE spoke with Carlos Jereissati Jr about the growing demand in Brazil for European designer brands, the exponential growth of the Brazilian middle class, and the ways in which Iguatemi is adapting to 21st century mall culture to create an experience that goes far beyond simply shopping.

The Iguatemi malls have a fantastic tech element. What role does smart technology play in the shopping experience for your customers?

At Iguatemi we look to provide an experience beyond the purchase: we use technology to make the Iguatemi shopping experience more attractive and differentiated. Today it is possible to capture information about customers who come to shop at Iguatemi through Wi-Fi, iBeacons and mobile applications. We can later utilise the information captured to develop custom marketing campaigns targeted to specific groups (geo-fencing). We have also installed museum-like seats with iPads and attached headphones to illuminate the story behind our Art Program. Works of art are displayed throughout the mall and we have built a true museum experience. Artists exhibited in the Iguatemi Collection include Rikrit Tiravanija, Rivane Neuenschwander, Sarah Morris, Lisa Oppenheim, Daniel Steegman Mangrané, Jeppe Hein, Chiara Banfi, Albano Afonso, Detanico & Lain and Marine Hugonnier.

Why is it important for you to integrate visual art into the Iguatemi experience? How do you select the artists you feature?

Iguatemi is not just a shopping centre. Our customers spend a lot of time here by themselves and with their families, and it is important for us to provide them with art, service, entertainment, gastronomy and retail so they can really enjoy their visit. We tapped the talents of Italian-born, Brazil-based curator Jacopo Crivelli Visconti to select the artists and orchestrate the distribution of the nominated works across Iguatemi's portfolio of shopping centres. We have always tried to support the arts, whether it's sponsoring exhibitions through Iguatemi such as SP-Arte, SP-Arte Foto or museums like Pinacoteca do Estado and MAM, or making our space available as a platform for the arts.

How do you assist European brands looking to enter the Brazilian marketplace?

We provide a 360-degree platform for brands, helping to connect them with local resources if needed or acting as an incubator for them. Brazil is a complicated country to get into due to import taxes, a complex tax system and difficult labour laws. But the luxury customer base is getting bigger each day with the growth of the middle class and there is increasing demand. Every luxury brand wants to be here but it is very expensive and complicated to operate. Large companies such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany & Co. etc. have entered the market directly but they can afford the learning curve. For this reason, we created the I-Retail division to help soften the landing of the brands into the country, to forge real relationships with them and act as a bridge between them and Iguatemi.

How has high-end shopping in Brazil evolved over the last decade?

The luxury consumer market has changed and evolved dramatically. In recent years, there has been an exponential growth in demand for luxury, which has allowed us to introduce the world's most important brands to the country. Brazilians are still discovering the pleasures of consumption that other countries had long ago. It took a while for the economy to evolve in Brazil before the recent emergence of a middle class. Twenty years ago, we bought everything outside the country. Now Brazilians not only shop closer to home, the population of Brazilian consumers has also doubled given the exponential growth of the middle class.

In your opinion, what qualities do Brazilians admire in fashion? Which trends predominate?

Brazilians are seductive by nature; they have constant energy and an intense love for life. We value beauty and sensuality. Brazilians are very creative by nature, always on the lookout for fresh ideas and ways to express themselves. Trends vary and we keep up with them. For example, we have been actively approaching more accessible brands, to cater to the trends of mixing high and low, and we have also catered to the market for men's fashion, which has grown tremendously during recent years.

Are there certain European designers who you think speak well to Brazilian consumers?

Bringing European brands to Brazil is a way to make Brazilians feel updated and connected to the world and Europe. Even though Brazilians occasionally shop abroad, they are proud to have European brands in their country - it makes them feel connected to the brand locally. Brazil also has a large population of Italian descendants, so brands with strong traditions of Italian craftsmanship and heritage like Gucci and Bottega Veneta do particularly well at Iguatemi.

What's next for Iguatemi? Do you have more exciting projects on the horizon?

We are expanding and will have 17 malls by 2015. We continue to grow and improve our malls increasingly. In Campinas and Porto Alegre, we are undergoing expansion so we can welcome more luxury brands. We recently entered the Outlet segment in some regions of the country, making premium brands available at significant discounts.

How do you think retail will evolve in the years to come? Do you expect any major changes in the mall culture?

The Brazilian economy continues to grow and still provides ample opportunity for operations that serve untapped demand. We believe that opening malls in great locations, with the right combination of architecture, mix of tenants and services will continue to do well not only in the immediate future but also in the decades to come. The future for the luxury market is very positive as the Brazilian middle class expands and begins aspiring for luxury products.