Portugal’s retro products are becoming popular, as companies bring back their old-fashioned aesthetic products into the market, ranging from vintage sardine tins, embroidered napkins to artisanal soaps.
Tiago Cabral Ferreira, of the Conserveira de Lisbo, a shop that for 83 years has sold sardines, mackerel, and other canned fish in Lisbo, jokes that America has the McDonald’s brand and they have tinned fish.
At the height of the tourist season, they get up to 10 customers a day, seeking the retro-styled tins sporting vintage logos and slogans. The shop is the epitome of the past era having preserved its decor of original tiles and wooden floors. The fish has been popular with the tourists too, thanks to a marketing strategy that focuses on traditional production and heritage.
There are German tourists in the shop who are raving about this rare find, saying that it is not easy to find similar shops in Europe. One of them says that the Portuguese are working hard to highlight their history, and it is lucky that many people are getting to know about this trend.
Six years ago, Catarina Portas, opened A Vida Portuguesa a shop in which she set about promoting the heritage of Portugal through vintage products and brands. She says that she had noticed the disappearance of the Old Portuguese brands whose designs had not changed for 50 to 70 years, since there was no competition when Salazar, a dictator, was in power.
It is after realizing the old-school brands had a certain appeal that she decided to stock her shop with these products which boated of a heritage of over 30 years, the original packaging, or one that had a strong similarity to the original.
She says that she wanted to show how good these products were, since most Portuguese seemed to prefer foreign products. She is also helping to promote small local brands above those produced by multinational companies.
This strategy has brought about a windfall, since her shop is very popular with both tourist and local consumers alike. She sells over 2,000 vintage products in her shops in Porto and Lisbon, with each branch brining in over 1 million Euros in sales.
Ach Brito-Claus Porto, a soap and perform maker shares a similar story. Although the company was started in 1887, after 100 years, it found itself struggling to stay afloat. A fourth generation employee of the family business, Aquiles Brito, says that the brand was suffering, brining the company to the brink of collapse during the 1990’s.
He says that they decided to go against all market research recommendations and market their vintage products to the International community. After 20 years, the company still maintains its small factory in Porto, where employees carefully package the soap bars in beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco-style packaging, awaiting shipment to over 50 countries.
The Claus Porto brand enjoys the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey and Kate moss. This endorsement has brought in International fashionista clients, by the droves. These are the types of clients who are not averse to paying 15 Euros (RM60) for a bar of this soap. Brito concludes that the crisis in Portugal forced them to go back to their roots, produce products that were closer to pedigree in quality, which is what their clients are looking for.