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NEW YORK — With its antique marble fireplace, Art Deco Coromandel screens and tweed carpeting, the new Chanel boutique inside Bergdorf Goodman plays like a luxuriously appointed residence mirroring the brand’s styles and fabrics.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The 2,000-square-foot shop (including selling space, fitting rooms, work stations for associates and storage) is positioned in prime Bergdorf real estate by the elevators on the second floor housing European designers, has its own foyer, and windows with pearl-embroidered suede curtains overlooking the Pulitzer Fountain by The Plaza and Central Park.

It’s no coincidence the Chanel boutique is adjacent to the 400-square-foot personal shopping complex, where the store’s best designer clients receive the pampering they expect, particularly when considering Chanel’s intricate ready-to-wear, perhaps the $10,400 laser-cut leather jacket interwoven with silk and backed by tulle netting, or a $7,965 jacket-dress ensemble with metal sequins embedded in tulle. Jackets range from $3,000 to $6,000, with special woven jackets up to $8,000; dresses are in the $4,000 range, though knit dresses start at $1,500.

“We are the most important point of wholesale distribution for Chanel,” said Ginny Hershey-Lambert, executive vice president of merchandising at Bergdorf’s. So it’s logical the two companies, which have been in business together since 1978, would collaborate on creating a unique, Peter Marino-designed environment. According to Chanel and Bergdorf’s, it won’t be replicated anywhere else, at least anytime soon, and has a richness more akin to a freestanding Chanel flagship than a shop-in-shop.

The merchandising takes “an integrated approach,” Hershey-Lambert explained, meaning there’s a better balance of ready-to-wear, footwear and handbags in an environment that lets it all ‘‘breathe.” The previous shop, relatively tucked away on the same floor, “did not give the customer experience we wanted,” she added. And in the new setting, products are grouped by delivery and trend, whether it’s runway or some other aspect of the collection, and the buying is strategic. “Each division goes together into the market to buy specifically for clients in mind,” Hershey-Lambert said, resulting in a higher rate of outfitting and multiple sales.

“It was time to move. The business had outgrown the space,” said Barbara Cirkva, president of the fashion division of Chanel Inc. “In wholesaling, Bergdorf’s is our top point of sale. Saks Fifth Avenue in New York would be number two, followed by Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.” Cirkva said the shop’s “spacious, residential quality make people feel very comfortable.”

Typically in a department store, it’s difficult to create a compelling setting. But Bergdorf’s provided “enough space to showcase every piece and still have a very special shopping experience.…Now we can expose the knitwear, the more casual aspects, the knit dresses, sweaters and layering pieces. Very often, they never made it to the selling floor before.”

The Chanel boutique is 50 percent larger than its predecessor, with fitting rooms twice as large.

Unveiled earlier this month, the shop not only reflects the label’s strong track record at the store, but is another sign the luxury market is rebounding. Bergdorf’s will capitalize on the momentum by this year renovating 80 percent of the 25,000-square-foot European designer floor, including adding a Tom Ford women’s shop — which will be the first inside any New York store other than the Tom Ford boutique on Madison Avenue. Also, the shoe salon will be expanded to accommodate 2,400 stockkeeping units from the current 1,700, and three key designer shops will be renovated: Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani and Gucci. But it was the renovation of Chanel that “wagged” the other changes, Hershey-Lambert said.

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