The recession hasn’t cramped the ambition of Tootsies in Houston or Balliets in Oklahoma City: Both veteran women’s luxury retailers have invested in big new flagships that are thriving.
This story first appeared in the March 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Tootsies’ owner Mickey Rosmarin and Balliets’ proprietor Bob Benham each built $6 million stores with generous building allowances from developers eager for fashionable anchors in their new shopping centers.
Tootsies doubled in size when its 35,000-square-foot home opened in February, and Balliets grew 40 percent when it unveiled a two-story, 17,000-square-foot store in August.
It certainly helped that the economies of Houston and Oklahoma City have been among the most resilient during the recession and are benefiting from rising oil prices.
“It was the deal of a lifetime,” Benham said of his new store at Classen Curve. Seven months later, profits are up and sales are above plan with a 51 percent jump, he said. His goal is to do $7 million this year and $8 million in 2012.
“There aren’t that many things in life that exceed your fondest expectations,” Benham noted. “This store has.”
Likewise, Tootsies is going gangbusters since it relocated to West Avenue, the new development on the prominent corner of Westheimer and Kirby Roads in the heart of wealthy River Oaks.
“It’s doing incredibly,” Rosmarin said. “All designer customers in River Oaks are flooding in.”
Designer sales have jumped more than 50 percent, and business overall is up 35 percent, he noted, projecting the store would hit $20 million this year against $15 million in 2010.
Rosmarin drew on 36 years of retail experience to design an elegant emporium filled with natural light, oversize dressing rooms, an event space with a catering kitchen next to a private salon for luxury products, a 300-foot aisle that can double as a runway and plenty of elbow room on the sales floor.
He layered Azzedine Alaïa, Givenchy, Nina Ricci, Rick Owens, Celine, Roland Mouret and Elie Saab onto a designer business led by Pucci, Etro, Michael Kors, Roberto Cavalli, Ralph Lauren, Bogner, Brunello Cucinelli and The Row.
Tootsies also added a denim bar with an in-house tailor, an intimate apparel department and expanded offerings of upper contemporary and bridge fashions.
An opening party and fashion show with Naeem Khan benefiting Best Buddies is set for March 22.
The new Balliets resembles an art gallery. The firm is one of the few fashion retailers catering to the affluent in Oklahoma City.
The challenge is to dress a clientele diverse in age, style and size, explained DeDe Benham, general merchandise manager and Bob’s wife of 41 years.
She allotted about a third of the additional space to a 1,800-square-foot contemporary department featuring such brands as Nanette Lepore, Milly and Elizabeth and James.
DeDe Benham also expanded bridge by adding Natori, Helios & Luna, Emmelle, Façonnable and Max Mara Studio and doubled designer jewelry space.
Balliets’ top resource is Prada, specifically handbags, shoes and leather goods.