NEW YORK — Longchamp opened its third boutique here Saturday at Rockefeller Center.
The store, the brand’s 12th in the U.S. and first Midtown site, is at 610 Fifth Avenue in the Channel Gardens. It is the fourth shop the French brand has opened in the U.S. over the past year, after units at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., last July; the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania in February, and in Greenwich, Conn., in April. Chief executive officer Jean Cassegrain plans to develop the brand’s U.S. footprint even further.
While freestanding retail is a priority for the 64-year-old firm, Cassegrain said that on the wholesale side, the brand has ceased working with some doors it felt were “no longer in line with our strategy and image.” Longchamp has bolstered its presence at Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, and it’s also entered Neiman Marcus, as well as Holt Renfrew in Canada.
Revenues in the U.S. and Canada (about 10 percent of its global sales) rose by 30 percent in 2011, and Cassegrain expects similar growth this year. If increases continue on this trajectory, he said this year’s North American sales will be double those from 2009. WWD reported in January that sales jumped 22 percent last year to 390 million euros, or $543 million at average exchange, and regionally, sales grew 30 percent in Europe (14 percent in France) and 23 percent in Asia.
At 900 square feet, the new store is significantly smaller than its two other Manhattan doors on Spring Street in SoHo and Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side — but Cassegrain calls it more “focused.”
“The ceiling is very high. Our design team worked to make the best use of this height and of the natural daylight from its huge windows,” the executive said. “It’s a landmark and the heart of the city. In New York, like in Europe, tourists are becoming a significant part of our sales, and we will be uniquely positioned to serve them there.”
Designed by architect Eric Carlson from Carbondale Agency, the firm that created the brand’s new global design concept two years ago, the store melds elements such as wood, lacquer, glass and leather, as well as a “fold” developed from a series of accordionlike planes that display a rainbow-colored selection of the line’s classic Le Pliage bags. Travel accessories and suitcases are highlighted in-store, as well as men’s small leather goods and briefcases.
The company, which opens between 20 and 30 stores worldwide every year, has recently seen the most growth in Greater China and Southeast Asia. Cassegrain contends it’s the fastest-growing region (the largest market is still France — followed by the U.S., Germany, Japan and Greater China) and business in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia saw more than 50 percent growth last year. A store opened in São Paulo this year, with another to follow, but the biggest project for 2012 is Hong Kong, where a three-story flagship will open on Canton Road in October
“We expect this store to rank in our top three stores as soon as it opens, and it will definitely boost our profile in Asia,” Cassegrain said, adding that next year will see the redesign of the brand’s Web site with full mobile-commerce capabilities. “In today’s global economy, it seems difficult to ignore any market. We’d like being able to focus on one market but we can’t.”
For the brand’s upcoming fall ad campaign, art directed by Blanca Li, models Coco Rocha and Emily DiDonato were photographed engaging in kitschy activities such as riding a tandem bike or performing the Charleston (set in Paris). The campaign will showcase handbags from the new LM Cuir collection (with the traditional LM motif embossed on leather), as well as outerwear and shoes. There will also be a digital tie-in — in the form of a short film called “Oh! My Bag,” a follow up to “Oh! My Dog” and “Oh! My Bike” — that will be released in September on the brand’s Web site and social-media platforms.