By  on June 25, 2007

NEW YORK — From the expansive tie walls to the separate made-to-measure department, men’s wear is a primary focus of the new Hermès store in New York’s financial district.

Last Thursday, the French luxury brand opened the doors to its latest store at 15 Broad Street, its 17th U.S. unit and its second in New York City.

“This store is very different,” said Robert Chavez, president of Hermès USA, in a walk-through prior to the grand opening. “The first thing you see is the tie wall,” a far cry from other Hermès stores where women’s accessories and handbags are front and center. “There’s definitely a men’s slant to the layout.”

Chavez believes the store, located right off Wall Street in the shadow of the New York Stock Exchange, will have booming men’s wear sales. “There is a key focus on the men’s categories here. It’s really unusual to see more male customers in an Hermès boutique,” but the preponderance of financial firms in the area makes this store an aberration.

Chavez said when Hermès opened the doors for a dry run last Tuesday, “they were two deep at the tie wall.” The impact of the colorful neckwear immediately inside the front entrance is definitely a draw, the company believes.

The opening of the 5,000-square-foot store, 3,000 of which is selling, marks the culmination of a two-year process, according to Chavez. “We started scouting downtown because we knew we wanted to make our new home in the financial district. We strongly believe in the revitalization of the area and we wanted to be at the forefront of that movement. We look at it as a vote of confidence in downtown.”

The area is also drawing other well-known names including Tiffany, Thomas Pink and Canali, all of whom have committed to open stores in the same neighborhood.

The addition of Hermès has significantly changed the face of retailing in the area. The Real Estate Board of New York gave Joel E. Isaacs of Isaacs and Co. and Christine Emery of the Lansco Corp., the brokers on the Hermès transaction, an award for the deal that Most Significantly Benefits Manhattan. Over the past year, REBNY said retail rents in the area have increased by up to 200 percent.

Patrick Thomas, CEO of Hermès International, called the location “amazing” and very “historic” for the French luxury brand, which opened its first unit in the U.S. in the 1930s. “This is our second major step in New York after Madison Avenue,” he said of the 10,600-square-foot flagship that is near 62nd Street, “and it [symbolizes] a rebirth of this part of New York City.”

Thomas reiterated that, because of its location, there was “more space given to the world of men” in this store than in its other units. However unlike many of its luxury-goods counterparts, men’s wear represents a significant share of the company’s business. “We are one of the few luxury-goods companies that has more balance between men’s and women’s,” he said, noting men’s accounts for 45 percent of sales and women’s 55 percent. In the Broad Street store, the mix is probably reversed, he said, giving more play to men’s.

“The space is significant for men. We have leather goods, watches, ready-to-wear and made-to-measure for the first time outside of Paris.”

However, the company is keeping its options open and will tweak the offerings depending upon customer demand. The area is also attracting more and more residents to the new luxury housing being built, and so Hermès may find that its home or gift departments require further space in the future.

Thomas said he was pleased with the design of the store, which incorporates elements of the company’s flagship at 24 Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris. Cherry woodwork, brushed nickle details, mosaic stone floors, leather chairs and the company’s signature Greque glass light fixtures all set the tone. The store was designed by Rena Dumas of the Paris-based architectural firm RDAI.

Although the company did not release sales projections, sources indicate it will have annual sales of around $20 million. Thomas would say only that the company is “full of hope and joy.” Chavez said sales should be “pretty significant. The sheer traffic in the neighborhood is amazing, especially at lunchtime.”

Hermès hopes to draw shoppers with its extensive assortment of 14 merchandise categories as well as a smattering of exclusives including Wall Street-themed neckwear. One tie features a bull running up on the front and a bear running down on the back. The other has a Statue of Liberty motif. Both are embossed with a Wall Street 2007 logo and retail for $148. There is also a $325 scarf that features a border that details many New York City neighborhoods.

Although offered at other stores around the world, the store carries both ready-to-wear suits and sportswear for men as well as a significant dress-shirt collection. But the pièce de résistance is the demi-mesure and sur-mesure department for made-to-measure clothing and dress shirts. “We experimented with it on Madison,” said Chavez, “but this is the first tune we’ve built an entire room for it.” Shoppers entering the room find a vast assortment of swatches as well as a display case featuring a variety of collars and cuffs. The department has a door allowing a customer complete privacy, as well as its own fitting area.

“We’ve devoted quite a bit of space to it,” Chavez said. Ready-to-wear suits start at $3,400 and go up to $6,000, while made-to-measure starts at $3,700 and can go as high as $30,000.
The remainder of the store offers equestrian apparel and saddles, small leather goods, women’s scarves and handbags, home furnishings and tabletop.

The store also carries the company’s first complete men’s bag collection—The Steve, which was inspired by Steve McQueen. Styles include a leather cross-body bag, a satchel for weekend and a $47,800 alligator briefcase. Other special items include a $25,000 limited-edition Cape Cod 1928 watch in rose gold with a havane crocodile strap. The store is also getting an advance shipment of its newest women’s fragrance, Kelly Calèche, which will be introduced globally in August.

One of the store’s windows features a customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle with Hermès leather seat, saddlebags and handles, which retails for $50,000. The other window has a horse made from old motorcycle parts with a gray flannel saddle. “We have the horse and the horsepower,” Chavez said.

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