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A little more than a year after closing its men’s flagship at 1070 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, Peter Elliot is in an aggressive expansion mode.
This story first appeared in the March 27, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The independent specialty retailer, which has operated stores in different locations around Manhattan since 1977, has four stores in the city: Peter Elliot Boots on Lexington Avenue and 80th Street, Peter Elliot Blue on Lexington Avenue and 72nd Street, Peter Elliot Boys across the street from Blue on Lexington Avenue and 72nd Street and Peter Elliot Women on Madison Avenue and 81st Street. That’s not enough for owner Elliot Rabin, who is in the planning stages to more than double the size of the 72nd Street location by fall and open an outpost at The Carlyle hotel.
In fall 2012, Rabin was forced to close his 20-year-old Peter Elliot men’s store after his lease expired and the landlord asked for a 50 percent rent increase. He put his energies into his other units and relocated the vast bulk of his men’s inventory into the Blue and Boots stores.
The owner of the building in which the blue-blazer-focused Peter Elliot Blue store on Lexington Avenue is located is currently in the midst of renovating, and asked Rabin if he was interested in taking the entire strip of retail on the avenue. Rabin agreed, and the location will more than double the store’s size from 1,100 square feet to 2,750 square feet. “I didn’t want to give up that corner,” he said, “and the owner wanted one tenant for all of it, so we agreed to take it.”
Rabin said he has to have sales of $100,000 a month to cover the rent, or around $5,000 a day, but he’s confident he can make those numbers. “If I can’t do that, I shouldn’t be in business,” he said.
When the renovation is completed around August, the store will include men’s clothing and sportswear as well as a new Peter Elliot Bespoke department, a mix of private label, Belvest and Hickey Freeman offerings. The store will also have a dedicated boys’ department. Rabin is hoping to partner with another brand to take some of the space in between the men’s and boys’ areas and is talking to footwear and knitwear companies. In September, the boys’ store will be converted into the company’s second women’s store.
At the same time, Rabin has subleased 768 square feet of space next to Vera Wang within The Carlyle hotel at 77th Street and Madison for Peter Elliot at The Carlyle. The store, which had formerly housed an autograph dealer, will carry mainly luxury men’s wear with a small touch of women’s, and will focus on items targeted to travelers such as cashmere sweaters, tuxedo shirts, cuff links and other “haberdashery” items, he said. “I’ve always wanted to be in a beautiful place like The Carlyle,” Rabin said, noting that he has operated two vitrines in the hotel for the past several years and the payback has been enormous. “We tried to get in years ago, but they only wanted big European brands,” he said.
At 72 years old, why is Rabin continuing to push so hard to expand? “I don’t think there are many great independent retailers left,” he said, “but I think there can be a rebirth and independents can explode again.”