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Pringle Focusing on the U.S.

NEW YORK — British knitwear brand Pringle is continuing its reinvention and now its focus is on the colonies.<br><br>The company, which has been undergoing a transformation in the last three years, has begun looking for a site for a New York...

NEW YORK — British knitwear brand Pringle is continuing its reinvention and now its focus is on the colonies.

The company, which has been undergoing a transformation in the last three years, has begun looking for a site for a New York flagship in midtown, as well as a second store in the Meatpacking District, according to chief executive officer Kim Winser.

It also is in talks with several department stores here, including Saks Fifth Avenue, about opening two in-store shops this fall. A 5,000-square-foot showroom, also in midtown, is expected to open in June. It would carry the full Gold and Red label women’s, men’s and children’s collections, as well as gifts and accessories.

“America is very important for us,” Winser said during a quick visit to New York this month with her head of retail, Bill Christie.

The Manhattan outpost would mirror Pringle’s current flagships in London and Tokyo, which opened last year. The London store is 5,200 square feet, and Pringle is searching here for a site of similar scale, Winser said. The company and its real estate broker, Isaacs & Co., have identified two sites as possibilities.

“We want to have a version of our Bond Street store in London here in New York,” Winser said. “We will be very focused about where we will open. Like in London, we want a prestigious site on a corner location.”

The flagship most likely would not open until later next year. The second store, in the Meatpacking District, would be smaller, at about 2,500 square feet, and would carry only Pringle’s more trend-driven Red Label line for women and men. It’s likely that store will open sooner than the flagship, Winser said, perhaps by this fall.

Both collections are designed by Stuart Stockdale, Pringle’s head of design, who has worked at Romeo Gigli and J. Crew. Pringle has been tweaking its collections over the past few seasons, since it began showing on the London runway last fall, and Winser admits they still need some work. “Stuart has widened the collection and variety is key,” she said. “But we’re still learning there.”

This story first appeared in the March 28, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

As for the proposed in-store shops, at least two are in the pipeline. “We’re working most closely with Saks Fifth Avenue on the wholesale side here,” Winser said, adding that the retailer bought only a small quantity of Pringle’s collections for fall 2002, but has significantly increased its order for this fall. The corners will give Pringle a presence in the U.S. in advance of the opening of its freestanding stores. Besides Saks, Pringle sells to such stores as Jeffrey and Fred Segal, and Maxfield in Los Angeles.

“After we open in New York, our next priority will be to find a site for a freestanding store in Los Angeles,” Winser said. “It’s a fantastic market for us already.”

Pringle’s increased tempo in the U.S. market follows the taking back of its license for the American market from Hartmarx. Winser said it took her two years to negotiate the deal, which is why the development of the U.S. market lags behind that of Europe and Japan.

And Pringle, which has sales at retail of about $144 million and expects to be near breakeven this year, is continuing to expand its retail presence in the U.K. and Japan. It will open its second London flagship in about two weeks, a 5,000-square-foot store at a 12,000-square-foot site on Sloane Street, and expects to have an in-store shop for women’s wear in Selfridges in London this fall after opening one for men’s wear this spring.

Pringle also is looking for a site for a store in Milan; a location for a second store in Tokyo, in the Ginza area, and is close to rolling out its in-store shops in Japan after opening the first one in Osaka, Christie said.

“We think we should have 12 freestanding stores worldwide and 45 to 46 corners within the next two seasons,” Winser said. “We also are now looking at licenses — we’ve already started looking at kid’s wear, which we think would be the best way to go for us, and fragrances would be next.”