Lampoon: Quotidiana, unlocking the potential of newsagent kiosks
In Milan newsagent kiosks have been restored and reimagined as service points on our doorsteps, information hubs and places where people can meet and interact
The origin of Milano Card and Quotidiana set up
In an interview with Edoardo Filippo Scarpellini, CEO of the Gruppo Milano Card and CEO of Quotidiana, Scarpellini explains the origin of Milano Card and why the Gruppo Milano Card decided to set up Quotidiana. Before Milano Card, Milan did not have the tourist card that all the great capitals of the world already had. «I understood that there was a potential that had not been tapped into: we thought of setting up Milano Card and a tourist information point» . Then they dealt with Expo tickets and that’s where they understood that the true tourist was from Milan. Tourists from Milan wanted to discover the secrets of Milan, so they started managing unknown spaces all around the city: the Highline on the roofs of the Galleria, the Crypt of the Holy Sepulchre, the Archive of the Polyclinic, the tower bell of Saint Celso and many other places that represented the century-old history of Milan, but were not accessible to visitors. Scarpellini recalls that «at the beginning, it wasn’t a structured offer». Milano Card started producing exhibitions, running cinemas and then at the end of 2019, started looking at newsagent kiosks in terms of their unexpressed potential. In 2009 the focus was on the foreign tourist, in 2015 it became local tourism and cultural offers, in 2020 they started thinking about newsagent kiosks and then immediately began working on this project. The role of newsagent kiosks in the urban environment is fundamental in the vision of Quotidiana. For this reason, an important architectural restyling work has been carried out, curated by the architect Martina Valcamonica, to rethink the network’s newsagent kiosks in a safe, sustainable and visually striking way. A real conservative restoration that, thanks to effective interventions, is allowing the iconic kiosks that populate the city of Milan to come back to life and become safe and accessible.
The potential of newsagent kiosks
When asked about why Milano Card decided to put money and effort in supporting newsagents, Scarpellini highlights that «newsagents have enormous potential. It is a sector that can develop and grow. We have always been linked to tourism and culture, but these are areas that have limits, whilst newsagent kiosks have a huge potential, starting from their role in urban design and the impact that they can have in the cityscape. Newsagents are first and foremost hubs that distribute not just information, but goods and services. They are meeting points in large cities where it has become progressively more difficult to connect with people, to communicate without the mediation of various technological tools. We have had a lightbulb moment and we have seen newsagents as places where people can meet and interact». Quotidiana has added other goods and services to the sale of newspapers and magazines, which was until now the main activity of newsagents. They have chosen goods and services that are more and more necessary in a city that doesn’t want to shut itself behind closed doors. Quotidiana has reimagined the city, taking into account people who shut themselves in their homes and access everything via mobile phones and computers. This is not a new issue and it predates the Covid pandemic. Quotidiana states that interpersonal relationships can be facilitated by newsagents, for example by adding groceries to the items they stock. You can do your food shopping on your doorstep and one can find a nanny, a carer, a carpenter, etc. in short all the services that Quotidiana believes requires a personal interaction. This new format has the potential to change and even strengthen the business model of newsagents, as we have seen that in the «retail sector, a monothematic approach no longer works. Customers need to optimize the time that they spend shopping and need to find more services under one roof. A newsagent, even though it has a limited retail space, can provide that. The main issue with newsagent kiosks is that they have sometimes become eyesores because they are private property and if the owner doesn’t take care of them, they deteriorate and have a negative impact on their neighbourhood and more in general on the cityscape». There have been a few proposals in the last few years that have focused on refurbishing single kiosks, but nowadays projects are successful if they create a network, not if one develops a single newsagent. «Milan is vast, you need to think big, invest in larger capitals and collaborate. We are working with different businesses in various sectors. For the first newsagent that we have opened in via Bocconi, we have collaborated with a firm that has created a roof garden on top of the kiosk. Another firm that produces fabrics which lower pollution will install their products all around the perimeter of the roof, so that 99% of the pollution inside the kiosk will be eliminated». Quotidiana have chosen to create job opportunities for unemployed over 50s and have provided space to food producers that have found a new outlet to promote their products.
Lampoon review: Quotidiana’s selection process of titles
According to Scarpellini, newsagent kiosks have been engulfed in a crisis and that has stemmed from their loss of identity, partly due to the fact that they were selling anything and everything. Scarpellini maintains that «a newsagent shouldn’t be a bazaar, it should have its own identity. We have chosen a name which is similar to the Italian name for daily newspaper: Quotidiana.» The name is purposely simple and not sensationalist, it expresses Quotidiana’s aspiration to take part in the everyday life of many people. In order to fulfil this aim, Quotidiana have restored preexisting kiosks where newspapers and other products are now displayed in a clear and orderly manner. «We have worked with a merchandising firm that has helped us to display and harmonize the various products that we offer. We have a specific entrepreneurial project, we don’t just cobble something together in order to survive. We select and train our staff, employing 3/4 people in each kiosk who welcome clients with a smile, remember their name and their preferences, so they can help build customer loyalty.» When asked about how the kiosks now differentiate themselves from the old model, Scarpellini affirms that «Our staff is properly trained and paid, as it should be in a properly managed business enterprise. This is a consequence of the move from an ad hoc approach to a more organised business model. Our advantage is thinking of kiosks as real businesses, this brings an increased competitiveness, new ideas and new opportunities.» Regarding the selection process of titles that they offer, Scarpellini explains that «a newsagent needs to treat all publications in the same manner and stock all publications available.» Usually generic publications are less appealing than specialised ones; the stock changes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and provides the opportunity to the kiosks to sell books. Another strength of the project is the use of kiosks as cultural hubs to promote art, cinema and photography. When asked about how this aspect of the project would be realised, Scarpellini states that «it’s in our DNA: kiosks were born as cultural hubs. Newsagent kiosks have it in their DNA: distributing information is being a cultural hub. Kiosks are located in squares, and streets, they are urban stages that can be filled with content. Art installations with sculptures, cinema shows on the kiosks’ walls in the evenings, discussions about literature and theatre, transforming kiosks into agoras, using culture to aggregate and gather people around kiosks, this is what we will do.»
Newsagent kiosks’ contribution to sustainability
As for the criteria in choosing the locations Scarpellini highlights that in the first phase «we have focussed on encircling the city, we prefer residential areas, transport hubs with metro and railway stations. We follow business criteria, but we have at times followed our hearts: we have chosen kiosks in particular areas or with a particular history behind them. The kiosk design is also very important to us, I am thinking of a tiny kiosk in Piazza De Agostini, which has been there since the beginning of the 20th century. We have to try and guess what people want, what they are thinking, we have to understand the city. The idea of restoring a kiosk and not substituting with a new one has value per se, it means preserving a part of history. Think about all the people who have been there before, it’s a way of preserving the identity of a place.» When it comes to promoting awareness of current issues associated with sustainability and the environment, Scarpellini underlines that «businesses have to take concrete steps to improve our environment. Newsagent kiosks can make considerable contributions to sustainability». Quotidiana has decided to restore and not substitute old kiosks, this has already provided a positive effect on the environment, not throwing out the previous structure, not building a brand new one, recycling everything that can be reused. Their choice also has architectural and historical consequences, as it preserves something that has been around for a long time. The rooftop gardens on the kiosks create small lungs in the city. The idea to utilise pollution absorbing fabrics, has been guaranteed to absorb more than 99% of the pollution around the kiosks. Quotidiana revitalised kiosks that had been abandoned. Scarpellini also underlines that «sustainability should also be concerned with our society and not just with the environment. We believe that people who need support can find a job that is properly remunerated». They will soon be able to recharge electric vehicles near the kiosks and they could also provide maintenance and assistance to encourage sustainable forms of transport. Moreover, Quotidiana also ensures that the packaging on their products located in newsagent kiosks are largely recyclable plastic and are provided by suppliers that adopt high environmental and socially sustainable standards. Overall, Quotidiana is investing in a sustainable future for Milan, restoring newsagent kiosks as important architectural elements of urban design and most importantly starting to get them back at the centre of neighbourhood life.
Via Bocconi ang. viale Bligny
Not only magazines but also something else, much more. In recent days, on the corner of Via Bocconi and Viale Bligny, the first newsstand was inaugurated. In addition to the usual magazines, it offers a wide range of food and personal care products.
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