By  on April 14, 2009

NEW YORK — Of all of Geraldine Stutz’s innovations for Henri Bendel, the Street of Shops is perhaps the most beloved.

As conceived by Stutz, Bendel’s president between 1957 and 1986, various categories such as stockings, tabletop items, stationery, flowers and cosmetics were housed in small side-by-side boutiques.

Now Bendel’s is bringing the concept back, but with a few twists. Rather than cluster shops together in one area as the previous Street incarnation did, “We wanted them to pop up throughout the entire store,” said Ed Bucciarelli, the retailer’s president and chief executive officer. A Street of Shops logo was developed with a crosswalk in signature brown and white. The logo appears throughout the store to alert customers a featured Street product has a limited run of one week to one month.

Bucciarelli said he was thinking about the current economy and ways to create more of an emotional connection with customers. He decided to revive the Street of Shops, initially on the main floor, creating two window shops flanking the main entrance. “The original attraction of the Street of Shops was the intimacy,” Bucciarelli said. “We always try to be respectful of our heritage.”

Bucciarelli said the 150-square-foot window shops, previously used for window displays “became a launchpad for other areas of the store. We have great productivity with higher sales in a smaller space.”

House of Lavande, a vintage jewelry brand with a red-carpet following, started with a window shop before moving to the second floor. Rebecca Minkoff and Botkier were featured in the window shops, which are now occupied by Kooba and Lee Angel.

“Some products are very planned out and others are spur-of-the-moment,” Bucciarelli said. “Some are very trend-driven. For example, Carrera, a hot vintage sunglass brand that’s been revived,” has a display area on the second floor under the Street of Shops logo. “Paris Hilton bought eight pairs of Carrera frames over the weekend.”

Bella Cucina, a Street of Shops resource on the third-floor atrium, sells specialty foods, such as spinach artichoke bruschetta spread, kalamata olive spread and preserved lemon cream, and is reminiscent of Stutz’ Shops, which conveyed a spirit of discovery. Ed Burstell, who ran Bendel’s from 1998 to 2004 as vice president and general manager, applied the Street of Shops concept to fashion, opening shops for Diane von Furstenberg, Catherine Malandrino, Rick Owens and Alice Temperley, among others. A spokeswoman for Bendel’s said of Burstell’s effort, “They didn’t brand Street of Shops as we are doing it, they did it from a merchandising perspective. They didn’t use Street of Shops in communications with the shopper.”

Regardless, the latest version hits what Bucciarelli hopes is a balance between exoticism and salability. Coming up, he cited the launches of Jee Vice sunglasses, Nixon watches and Functionalab, a new Canadian beauty-nutrition line that Bendel’s will carry exclusively. “In the summer, Tuccia of Capri is coming to make custom sandals,” Bucciarelli said. “The Street of Shops resonates with people.”

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