By  on July 31, 2007

Tumi is playing up its feminine side as it seeks to build a presence in women's handbags and accessories.

The 32-year-old privately owned brand's first stand-alone women's handbag shop will open in late September at 1100 Madison Avenue by 82nd Street in Manhattan, coming on the heels of the recent reopening of a unit on Madison near 54th Street, now considered a flagship prototype.

The prototype, with 2,000 square feet, showcases handbags, backpacks and totes prominently up front, including the Chatham bags, priced at $375, and Nantucket summer totes, $495, both in coated linen. The bags are displayed near the Voyageur collection, which includes lightweight durable nylon day bags, priced at $225; backpacks, $345, and carry-ons, $450.

Tumi's more masculine offerings — the luggage, travel gear and men's leather accessories — are displayed deeper in the store, which cost between $1.2 million to $1.3 million to create.

The prototype's most striking features are two grand red Murano glass chandeliers suspended from the 18-foot-high ceiling. They match the large signature red Tumi logo in the rear. There are also textured walls evoking waves, and sturdy macassar ebony and chrome fixtures, lending a look of luxury and an Art Deco touch.

"The main objective was to really soften the image and move away from what's been a more masculine approach," said Peter Chu, the architect on the project. Chu and his brother, David, Tumi's executive creative director, developed the new retail concept.

Peter Chu said the upcoming women's-only store will contain about 900 square feet and will reflect the look of the prototype with some of the same decorative elements and signature features, as will the full-line stores that Tumi plans to open over the next year. Currently, the team sees between 12 and 20 stores opening in the next 12 months, including locations in London's Canary Wharf; Amsterdam; Hamburg, Germany, and Osaka, Japan.

According to Tumi executives, even though most of the products are for men, about 50 percent of shoppers are women buying for their husbands or boyfriends. Therefore, they see an opportunity to capture more sales by gearing a greater percentage of the collection to women. The company is in the process of boosting women's handbags to 25 percent of its total volume, from under 10 percent previously.The retail initiative and repositioning of the brand also involve renovating the 70 Tumi stores in the U.S. and 35 international doors, and launching new products.

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