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Just call it Brooks Brothers Lite.
This story first appeared in the August 14, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The retailer on Thursday opened its first “boutique,” a 4,000-square-foot store in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center that could be the first of several small stores in urban locations around the country.
“This is the smallest store we have — half the average size,” said Claudio Del Vecchio, chairman and chief executive officer of Brooks Bros.
Nevertheless, all categories of merchandise with the exception of Black Fleece are represented — albeit in an abbreviated form. The store, which is two-thirds men’s and one-third women’s, offers a comprehensive men’s shirt and tie selection in the center with men’s suits, sportswear, outerwear and accessories on the left and women’s dress and casualwear and accessories on the right.
“This is untraditional for Brooks Bros.,” Del Vecchio said. “It’s more boutique-style merchandising.” For example, men’s shirts are assorted by size instead of style and only limited sizes are available on the selling floor. Other sizes and styles are either housed in the basement storage area or can be sent over from the Brooks Bros. flagship on Madison Avenue “within a half hour,” he said.
Formerly a French Connection store, the unit at Sixth Avenue and 51st Street is expected to produce annual sales of $10 million, Del Vecchio said.
“If it works, that will be very good news,” he added. “One of the limits to our expansion has been finding the right size stores in other cities. We prefer downtown locations to malls and when 10,000 square feet becomes available, a bank usually gets it. We can’t compete with what a bank will pay in rent.”
Del Vecchio said although the Rockefeller Center unit is “a different model,” it can help all of the company’s stores “fine-tune their merchandise flow. That’s our goal for all our stores — to improve our inventory turn. Here, we have no choice but to keep the assortment moving.”
Del Vecchio expects men’s shirts to be the strongest category in the store, attracting area workers, tourists from the nearby hotels or those visiting Radio City Music Hall next door. Although suits are available, the assortment tilts more heavily toward sportswear. “We think most men will buy their suits on Madison Avenue, but they can get them here, too,” Del Vecchio said.
In other news, Brooks Bros. has opened its first shop-in-shop in the U.K. in the women’s department of Harrods. The boutique, which opened on July 22, is 700 square feet.
Eraldo Poletto, president of strategic development and international business, said Brooks Bros. is hoping to add a similar shop in the men’s area of the London department store.
“Harrods is a phenomenal tourist destination and this is an amazing opportunity,” Poletto said. He added he is “exploring” additional shops at big European retailers such as Selfridges in London and Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Brooks Bros. currently sells its men’s shirts and ties in El Corte Inglés in Spain and “our goal is to sell everything,” Poletto said.