By  on August 25, 2008

LOS ANGELES — St. John has unveiled plans for a new retail concept, which it will launch next month in its boutique in Florida’s The Shops at Bal Harbour. The new look features a clean, residential quality inspired by the California modern style, in a color palette dubbed “St. John platinum.”

“The original design concept is over 10 years old, and it was time to refresh,” said St. John’s chief executive officer, Glenn McMahon. “With the timing of myself and [executive vice president of design] George Sharp joining the company, it made sense to evolve not only the product and the advertising, but also points of retail.”

The company hired Randall A. Ridless LLC, interior design, whose work on the Burberry stores McMahon had admired. The firm began with the concept of a Bel-Air mansion using luxe, neutral-hued materials such as cerused oak, Tundra Gray marble, crystal chandeliers, Venetian plaster and stamped crocodile-embossed fixtures with burnished bronze metal accents.

Each store will unfold as a series of three to seven rooms housing ready-to-wear, couture, evening and weekend, as well as freestanding vitrines and tables showcasing the company’s revamped accessories. Apparel will be displayed on face-out fixtures that allow customers to touch the clothes. The runway show will be played on supersize flat-screen panels and, in the back of the stores, there will be dedicated seating areas for men with plasma TVs and down-filled couches.

Dressing rooms have been enlarged to accommodate two women shopping together, and also feature tables, chairs and three-way backlit mirrors with day and evening lighting. The closed window box concept will be replaced by displays that allow passersby to see into the store.

Most St. John boutiques are between 4,800 and 5,000 square feet, with resort locations of 2,500 square feet. The Bal Harbour boutique is among the smallest, and therefore an ideal test store. The Houston Galleria unit will open in November, a 3,000-square-foot shop-in-shop will open in Harrods in December and, beginning in January, St. John will renovate its 10,000-plus-square-foot flagships in Costa Mesa, Calif.’s South Coast Plaza, Beverly Hills and New York. A newly renovated 5,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue flagship shop-in-shop will open in March.

McMahon said the company plans to add another 10 to 12 stores in the next three to five years, but the focus will be on tiered renovation of its 28 existing stores and Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue shops-in-shops for 2009, with a Naples, Fla., location being the only new store planned for next year.

“Response in market to the changes at St. John has been positive despite the difficult retail economy, so we continue to be encouraged,” said McMahon.

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