As part of its international expansion drive, Brooks Bros. has opened two European flagships, in London and Paris.
The 8,000-square-foot Paris unit, on the burgeoning Rue Saint Honore, is the brand's first foray into France, where it hopes its timeless fashions and go-to-any-length service ethic will be a hit. "We're classic, yet current," Carla Annunziato, vice president of international, said during a walk-through.
The rambling, two-level Paris unit — in an overhauled historic building that also is welcoming new stores by Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Cacharel and others this fall — boasts the clubby, walnut-paneled decor of other Brooks Bros. units worldwide.
The store is accented with local antiques and furniture, along with a merchandise selection geared to a trend-conscious clientele with luxury tastes. These include an ostrich-feather handbag priced at 1,698 euros, or $2,168 at current exchange, and a cashmere blazer at 898 euros, or $1,147. Annunziato said she anticipates fashion-driven items selling well in Europe, such as high-heeled riding boots or cropped suede jackets. Classics such as no-iron shirts (98 euros, or $125) and classic wool blazers and skirts — priced at 328 euros and 148 euros, or $419 and $189, respectively — are also represented.
She declined to give first-year sales projections, however, market sources estimate the unit could generate annual sales of $10 million.
Women's represents only about 15 percent of the Brooks Bros. business worldwide, but the Paris unit devotes an entire room to the category on the first floor, which is otherwise dominated by men's shirts, neckties and sportswear.
Two staircases descend into a much larger basement, with one leading to women's wear and another to men's sportswear. Annunziato said space allotments — now given mostly to men's categories like tailored clothing, sportswear, furnishings and made-to-measure — would fluctuate according to demand.
Brooks Bros. is banking on a multilingual, international clientele in France, boasting sales consultants conversant in Romanian, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Arabic, in addition to French and English.
Meanwhile, its first U.K. flagship — boasting 11,000 square feet spread over two levels — is located at 132-134 Regent Street, near Aquascutum, Burberry, Liberty and Habitat. The store marks the debut of women's wear and accessories in the U.K. Those products, along with men's sportswear, shirt and ties, are carried on the ground level, which has polished maple floors and signature mahogany furniture.Women's merino wool cardigans and cashmere V-necks are stacked on round, polished wooden tables, while shirts hang on a nearby rack. Shoes, handbags and luggage are displayed across a back wall in the women's area.
The new store also carries the boys' collection for the first time, and the boys' tuxedo is already proving popular among women, according to a Brooks Bros. spokesman.
The lower ground level, reached by a dramatic, Busby Berkeley–style spiral staircase, is dedicated to men's tailored and made-to-measure clothing. On Sept. 7, the firm will hold an opening cocktail party at which Claire Martin, Britain's number-one female jazz vocalist, is slated to perform.
Annunziato said bestsellers in Paris already confirm a taste for fashion and luxury items. These include a cashmere pinstripe shawl for 328 euros, or $417; a black sheath dress for 348 euros, or $442, and women's shoes priced from 200 euros up to 450 euros, or $254 to $572. In London, quilted suede jacket, shirts with French cuffs, silk and cashmere sweaters and fashion pearl jewelry performed well.
Brooks Bros. executives declined to reveal sales projections for the Regent Street store. Edward Whitefield, chairman of Management Horizons Europe, said of the store, "As Brooks Bros. is a completely unknown brand in the U.K. and Europe, I'd expect it to do between 3 million and 4 million pounds [$5.6 million to $7.5 million] in sales in the first year. I don't see it being any more than that.
"Your average shopper on Regent Street — 50 percent of whom are tourists from places like eastern Europe, Japan and Saudi Arabia — hasn't heard of the brand. Brooks Bros. has a nice formula, but most people on Regent Street won't know the brand."
Late last year, the company opened a unit on Old Broad Street in the city financial district. That 3,200-square-foot store has an area dedicated to the brand's made-to-measure tailoring service, complete with a leather Chesterfield sofa and a plasma-screen TV showing Bloomberg News.
Brooks Bros. plans to open 10 more stores across the U.K. over the next three to five years.
Although Brooks Bros. was owned by the British retailer Marks & Spencer from 1988 through 2001, stores were never opened in the U.K. Claudio Del Vecchio's Retail Brand Alliance bought the company in 2001 and initiated the rollout.Brooks Bros. has 67 stores in Japan and is also present across Southeast Asia. Newer markets for the brand include Dubai, Chile and, coming in November, South Korea.
Del Vecchio is projecting Brooks Bros. sales to reach $1 billion within two years, with one quarter of that coming from international sales. A 10,000-square-foot Milan flagship on San Pietro is slated to open next February, replacing a smaller unit on Quadrilatero Della Moda.
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