Havaianas and Beyond

Exploring the Unexpected Success of Brazil’s Retail Landscape

Havaianas and Beyond

When you think of Brazil, what comes to mind? The statue of Corcovado, the Amazon jungle, the song 'Girl From Ipanema', samba – right? But retail? Usually not in the top five motivations you may have to visit one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

But it should be.

Given Brazil's isolated-yet-connected world view, brands have had an opportunity to create a version of physical retail us Northern Hemisphere folks don't often have a chance to see. But when we do, we're affected by its innovation, creativity, and playfulness in a way that teaches us a lot.

What are you doing in Brazil, anyway?

We recently had an opportunity to speak at the APAS (Association of Public Authority Surveyors) conference in Sao Paulo, the largest supermarket conference in the world, as well as a chance to visit retail in the area. Sao Paulo is one of the biggest cities in the world with 12.5 million people covering a lot of land mass. That is impressive enough, but when you couple the APAS conference (and its 56,000 attendees) with great retail, you've got something that stands out and is worth the visit.

Havaianas and Beyond

We were invited to the conference to speak because of the APAS leaders' association with the annual NRF Big Show in NYC. There, they saw what we had to say and wanted to have those ideas expressed to their massive audience back home. It was a privilege to present to them as one feature of the show, but the displays by vendors really took the proverbial Maracuja cake. The comparisons to EuroShop struck us as the closest we've seen to the magnitude and creativity on display at the APAS show. Read about our takeaways from the 2023 EuroShop trade show.

Havaianas and Beyond

The show was fantastic, but the people we met and the retail we experienced were even better. One retailer, Havaianas, is a prime example of the under-the-radar-everywhere-but-here retail that permeates the city and Brazil in general. Here's some background and visuals to help us learn.


Founded in 1962, Havaianas is most famous for its rubber flip flops, which were once considered a fundamental staple (by the Brazilian government) for the less wealthy portion of the population. However, this 'staple' took off and became ubiquitous due to innovative product extension and tie-ins to fashion brands' looks of the 1990's. The name Havaianas is derived from the feminine form of the Portuguese word for "Hawaiians" and the flip flops themselves are an innovative take on the Japanese zori sandal, but after the 1990's, any remnants of the originals were gone due to the brilliance of the street-up blend into the fashion world. None of that mattered anyway. Flip flops, and Havaianas, became synonymous with Brazilian casual-cool fashion across the entire population and now globally as well.

But at retail today, a Havaianas store is a LOT more than just flip flops. With the same mentality that took flip flops globally, the brand has now expanded into beauty, apparel, consumables, accessories, and much more. They are stores where you can shop for many things, always with a Brazilian flare for color and experience.

Havaianas and Beyond

The use of colorful plastic, tying the entire environment together, is original and gives the space a funky kind of feel, brand-right to its origins. And as you can see, they're selling a lot more than flip flops. Havaianas has transformed itself into a fashion brand with much to offer.

Look and feel aside, one of the things we liked the most about their environment and specifically in their merchandising, is that they have in fact not forgotten where they came from, as this shot demonstrates. Now that's good old power merchandising at its best.

Another impressive area was the beauty zone, 'Beleza' (beauty) run in conjunction with Soneda, a Brazilian perfumaria. This area was loaded with good ideas, including our favorite, the category bump-outs with nature shots on the sides. The entire area felt very 'garden' because of graphic elements and was loaded with hot product.

Havaianas and Beyond

Of course, we're only touching on some of the merchandise ideas/zones, but aside from the many photo-ops, another favorite feature was the 'hang out' areas. One on the first floor with a grandiose mural of the history of the brand and another adjacent to the top floor, which product-wise, was loaded with consumables to give the customer the option of buying a snack or two and strolling out to enjoy them.

Havaianas and Beyond

Given all the above and much more, isn't this what we mean here in the US when we talk about creating a "great customer experience?" Fashion, beauty, cool design, hang out spaces, affordability, and something you don't get from photos, great service. Learn more about our take on immersive experiences.


Simply put, Brazil is underrated. Sure, its locale is a bit prohibitive and not many of your peers have even been anywhere in the 5th largest country in the world to testify. Yet, despite all that, it begs consideration. In our opinion, the isolation has helped Brazil become one of those 'ah-ha' places for not only retail, but design and creative spirit as well. The fun, colorful, summer-like flare along with the care-free spirit of the people and places makes it a prime destination for retailers to visit for a little glass-half-full mind set in the face of the rest of the world's challenges. So don't write it off and don't take our word for it. Go there. You'll see what we mean.

About Wayfind

Lost and in need of guidance? That’s why we created Wayfind—the WD blog designed to be your beacon in this rapidly evolving world. In these short, thought-provoking reads, you’ll discover insights into the minds of your consumers and be inspired to go out into the world to create your own extraordinary experiences.

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