As Manhattan's retail flagships teem with tourists, Lord & Taylor is cultivating the suburbs for its core customer.
"This is the land of opportunity of Lord & Taylor," Jane Elfers, president and chief executive officer, said during a tour of the two-level, freestanding 180,000-square-foot unit in Scarsdale, N.Y., just north of New York City.
Ensconced in affluent Westchester County, the 60-year-old Scarsdale store is the chain's top-volume branch, growing at 6 to 7 percent annually and approaching $100 million a year in sales. It is surpassed only by the 650,000-square-foot Fifth Avenue flagship, which generates just $140 million, far less than other department store flagships in Manhattan.
Lord & Taylor's branch in Garden City, N.Y., is the second-largest volume unit in the chain, followed by those in Stamford, Conn.; Westfield and Ridgewood, N.J., and Manhasset, N.Y.
"They're all $50 million-plus stores," Elfers said, and are freestanding, with the exception of Ridgewood. "They are top performers and offer the convenience of driving right up to the front of the store....There's an ease of shopping and customers know the associates."
The chain, which generates volume of $1.4 billion, is profitable, Elfers said, declining to provide specifics. "In 2006, we had the best sales and earnings performance that we've had in the last 15 years."
Instead of building stores, the strategy is to pump up those in operation. L&T's parent, NRDC Equity Partners, which purchased the chain for $1.1 billion last year, has earmarked $250 million for branch renovations and another $100 million for the flagship. With its excess of selling space, the Manhattan flagship will be downsized and modernized. The company also is spending millions on new image advertising and has revamped its shopping bags with a fresh design.
In addition, Elfers predicted the retailer's Internet business could reach $100 million in sales within three to five years. "It hasn't been meaningful, but we are relaunching our Internet presence in the fall," she said.
Of Lord & Taylor's 46 branches, generally ranging from 70,000 square feet to 160,000 square feet, the eight freestanding units have the greatest merchandise opportunities since they're removed from mall competitors.
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