By  on September 3, 2014

NEW YORK — Hartmann, the American luggage brand, has opened its first U.S. store, a 1,734-square-foot unit at 520 Madison Avenue here. Prior to this, Hartmann was a wholesale brand.

Samsonite bought the 135-year-old company two years ago. Since then, the brand’s core heritage collection in nylon with leather trim has been redesigned. A collection for women, Wings Belting, features PVC-coated canvas with leather handles and straps. Hartmann is developing a new line of hard-sided luggage called Denovo. Women’s handbags will be introduced in the future.

“We now want to get more modern and fashion-forward with the products,” said Rob Cooper, vice president and general manager of U.S. retail and e-commerce for Samsonite. Speaking of the new store, he added, “I would be disappointed if we did less than $3 million in the first year.”

The store, designed by Gensler, incorporates luggage features throughout. Because Hartmann is known for its use of leather, the architecture firm installed leather panels on the walls next to displays. Much of the store is covered in a golden acacia wood, the bark of which happens to be used to tan Hartmann leather. Brass fixtures mimic the hardware on the luggage. A custom-made brass-and-acacia chandelier, with its lights poised to take off in different directions, is a nod to the idea of flight. A variety of globes and propellers adds interest to shelves, and an old trunk sits at the front of the store, a reminder that Hartmann started out making the chests that were used by U.S. presidents such as Grover Cleveland.

“Our goal is to put a lot of muscle behind the advertising,” said Cooper. “We’re reintroducing Hartmann as a luxury brand.”

Most products range in price from $500 to $1,000, with business cases going up to $2,000. Small leather goods, designed exclusively for the store, range from $75 to $125. Cooper said the small leather collection is being expanded.

A display of products on the mezzanine features a banner that bears a quotation from founder Joseph Hartmann: “Luggage so fine it will stand as a symbol of excellence.”

Hartmann recently opened a store in Beijing and plans to open a unit in Seoul in the near future. Closer to home, stores are scheduled to bow in the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pa., and The Stores at SouthPark in Charlotte, N.C., over the next few months.

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