The Lilly Pulitzer revival is going strong, as seen by the success of its Signature stores.
This story first appeared in the October 2, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Lilly Pulitzer — supplier of the de rigueur fashion uniform that originated with the Palm Beach social set — has developed a retail distribution plan that broadens its reach to specialty stores, and gives the line more exclusivity.
Lilly Pulitzer Signature Stores are hand-picked by the company to carry the entire Lilly Pulitzer product line, with exclusive use of logos, signage, hangers and fixtures, even including exclusive paint colors. Signature Stores can be both shop-within-a-shop concepts, or dedicated stores, where 95 percent of the products are Lilly Pulitzer.
The program includes 31 stores, from Florida to Colorado, which account for about 30 percent of Lilly Pulitzer’s total sales, predicted to exceed $10 million this year.
The program has been a win-win situation for store owners and Lilly Pulitzer.
“One of the prime benefits of being a Signature Store is the direct association with the brand,” said Michelle Rodriguez, signature accounts manager for Lilly Pulitzer. “We carry the line on our Web site and have logo materials, on advertising and letterheads that other stores are not allowed to use.”
The benefits go beyond full use of logos.
Kathleen Orrico, co-owner of C. Orrico, with stores in Palm Beach and Naples, Fla., said showing the whole lifestyle concept, with the logo as the identifying mark, is a distinct advantage. Her Palm Beach store was one of the first Signature Stores, a 2,500-square-foot shop within her 6,000-square-foot store. Lilly Pulitzer’s sales of $2 million, represent around two-thirds of C. Orrico’s total volume.
“Lilly is the biggest part of our business, and the most important. We were able to buy our building here because of Lilly,” said Orrico. The store in Naples, which recently opened, is a dedicated Lilly Pulitzer Signature Shop.
“The main benefit is carrying such a wide variety of their products,” said Stephen Moore, president of The Cloister Collection, a Sea Island, Ga., specialty store, with a 750-square-foot shop within the total 3,400-square-foot store.
“Lilly Pulitzer spent a lot of time and money researching it and putting the program together,” Moore added. “The fixtures definitely create a special look.”
A design concept book, based on the prototype store helps retailers, Rodriguez said.
“We recommend a certain color pink for the walls, a certain finish for the flooring and fixtures. We then make these available to the retailers if they chose to use them. Or if they find something in a similar vein, they can use that.”
Still, most retailers tend to use the company fixtures. And the stores pay for all of it, including the logo hangers.
Sage Johnson, owner of Pink Lemonade, a 1,000-square-foot shop in Atlanta, opened in February as a Lilly Pulitzer store. Results have been well above expectations.
“It was such an obvious market, I thought it would do well here, (in Atlanta), and it has. The women who love [Lilly Pulitzer] really love it, and are die-hard about it.” She projects sales of $800,000 to $1 million for her first year.
Johnson said customers like the whole Lilly Pulitzer feeling the fixtures help create, as well as access to the whole collection when they shop. With the complete assortment, she is able to dress the many women looking for identical mother/daughter dresses.
Despite bestselling classic shifts and capris, which work in all regions, there are some geographically sensitive trends. Johnson of Pink Lemonade expects the new fall line to do well in Atlanta, because the company “is getting more progressive with their styles.” Meanwhile both Orrico and Moore expect Lilly’s new club line of golf and tennis apparel to be strong performers in their resort area locations.
Becoming a Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store is no easy task, with the company accepting applications only once a year. Current Signature Stores must reapply each year.
Stores must explain why they want to be a Signature Store, why the location they are choosing would be appropriate, the demographics of their customer and their marketing and business plans. The company receives about 35 applications a year. Last year it accepted 13. Rodriguez said there is no set number of stores as a goal.
“Our goal is to put as many stores out there that will service our customer. We don’t want to be on every street corner. We don’t want to put competition on our Signature Stores and over-distribute. We just want to make sure we’re available to customers.”