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Guess has a lot on its plate these days.
This story first appeared in the July 28, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In December, the brand will open its largest U.S. store, a two-level, 13,000-square-foot flagship at 575 Fifth Ave., on the corner of 47th Street
In addition, Guess plans to double the number of accessories-only stores to 450 worldwide in three years and round out its list of product categories. “One category that is so much a part of Guess is underwear and lingerie,” said Guess Inc. vice chairman and chief executive officer Paul Marciano, who is the architect of the company’s provocative advertising. “We have it in Europe and Asia, but not in the U.S. We’ve been testing it. It’s so much a part of the image. Every ad I’ve done has had bras or lingerie or a bustier. It could be huge. It’s where we think we have an opportunity.”
A home collection could complete the brand, Marciano said. “Home will happen,” he added. “It’s a category that clearly would be a natural for Guess. Once we find the right partner, we will do a partnership or licensing agreement.”
Several years ago, Fifth Avenue addresses below 52nd Street were seen as inferior by fashion firms. But as rents became prohibitive in the prime area of 52nd Street to 58th Street, retailers reconsidered. Guess’ neighboring tenants will include Aldo, American Girl Place, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Benetton, Coach, H&M, Kenneth Cole and Saks Fifth Avenue.
With a three-story glass atrium and 142 feet of frontage on Fifth Avenue and 47th Street, the flagship will be “a window on the world for the brand,” Marciano said. “There is nothing more important than Fifth Avenue in America.”
The store will have lots of mirrored surfaces, metal mesh on windows and monumental images from ad campaigns. Voluptuous mannequins will stand on ledges protruding from a faceted red floor-to-ceiling sculpture. Marciano calls them “women who are women and not the skinny stick models I’m not really a fan of.” When conceiving ad campaigns, he said, “I don’t have a magic formula, I have pictures in my head of Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot or Marilyn Monroe.”
Because of its size, the flagship will contain shop-in-shops for watches and jewelry, which will be presented together, and shoes and handbags. Guess by Marciano will be separated out into its own area.
Guess started as a jeans company almost 30 years ago, so Guess jeans for women and men will have a big presence, Marciano said, adding that eyewear, jewelry, belts, outerwear, small leather goods and men’s bags will also be sold. “We don’t think [the flagship] will cannibalize sales from department stores [that sell Guess],” Marciano said. “The question came for years and years in every mall where we opened. We’ve proven time after time that the minute we open a store with a full representation of the brand, not only do we not cannibalize sales, but we reinforce the brand’s integrity and identity. There’s never been a decrease in sales in department stores.”
Guess has been looking for a flagship in Manhattan for many years, but no site met all of its requirements. “They were not the right size, not the right corner or on the wrong block,” Marciano said. In the meantime, the company opened Guess stores at the South Street Seaport and in SoHo on Broadway. A Guess by Marciano store bowed on the other side of Broadway.
While customers at the SoHo units are 80 percent American, according to Marciano, the Fifth Avenue flagship will draw a large number of overseas tourists.
Marciano declined to give a projection for the flagship’s first-year sales volume. However, he said it will be higher in terms of sales per square foot than the SoHo unit, which does more business than Guess stores in Las Vegas and Florida.
The flagship won’t be Guess’ last word in Manhattan. Marciano said he’s looking to open stores on 34th Street, Third Avenue and in the Flatiron District.
Guess is no Johnny-come-lately to international markets, having ventured abroad nearly 20 years ago. “Spain, France, Italy, Korea and China are clearly a goal for [accessories stores],” Marciano said. He noted the company is in 87 countries, but hasn’t established a presence in China, Russia or India. And while the Guess business is strong in southern Europe, the focus now is on moving north and developing Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, Sweden and Scandinavia. Marciano said he’s also looking for a partner for a joint venture in Brazil.