Club Monaco Sees Growth in Chicago

State Street could be next location.

A striking black and white decor in the interior of the North Damen Street store.

Club Monaco is getting cozy with Chicago.

This story first appeared in the August 28, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

After renovating its Michigan Avenue store and launching a 3,000-square-foot-plus location in the Bucktown section last month, the contemporary brand plans to open another space, with more units possible in the region.

“Chicago is a primary market for us and we will be expanding even further,” said Tina Gershoff, Club Monaco’s vice president of retail. “It’s just as important of a market as New York.”

How many Chicago area stores would be enough? “Let’s put it this way, we have seven stores in Manhattan and in Los Angeles and we would love to see more stores in Chicago,” she said.

The location at 1731 North Damen Avenue in Bucktown opened July 18. Club Monaco operates three other area stores: in the 900 Shops along the Magnificent Mile, on North Halsted Street in Lincoln Park near DePaul University, and in Northbrook Court shopping center in suburban Northbrook.

Although Gershoff did not give a location for the proposed fifth site, she said she was impressed with retail development along State Street, which is home to Nordstrom Rack, Macy’s and Forever 21.

“It’s a great up-and-coming market,” she said. “With all the traffic that they are anticipating, all of the buzz there seems correct.”

Club Monaco has met with members of the city’s fashion press and hosted a VIP dinner for brand ambassadors before the July 23 North Damen Avenue opening party, which featured a black-and-white photography exhibit curated by Club Monaco and the Chicago Photography Center.

The push in Chicago came after Club Monaco opened its first Hawaiian store in June at Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, which the brand believes will help bridge its international and domestic business, given that it predicts strong traffic from Canadian and Asian tourists as well as from U.S. visitors and residents.

And on Aug. 1, Club Monaco launched two locations, at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, Mich., and in the Natick Collection in Natick, Mass.

“We’re not overexpanding,” Gershoff noted, adding that Club Monaco opened six stores this year.

“We are sensitive to the economy,” she said. “But we’re at a friendlier price point. I feel that’s easier on the consumer.”

On North Damen Avenue, Club Monaco carries women’s and men’s fashions ranging from $29 T-shirts to a $200 women’s floral sheath dress and a $250 men’s leather jacket.

The store, like its clothing palette, is black and white, intended to capture the modern openness of a New York loft with the architectural details of an apartment on Paris’ Left Bank. In turn, the black-brick structure features herringbone flooring, custom rugs, an exposed-beam ceiling with vintage-inspired fixtures and residential touches like a black-and-white chessboard, zebra-print ottoman seating and leather woven chairs.

And as Club Monaco extends its retail reach, it also plans to grow its two newer categories, eyewear and swimwear launched for spring ’08. Gershoff said the retailer will continue to build on its swim collection and showcase its eyewear collection in all Club Monaco locations.

The brand operates 69 stores in North America and another 48 units internationally.