Until the week of June 28, Hollister’s 40,000-square-foot SoHo flagship was known primarily as a tourist beacon tended to by zinc-nosed shirtless men. Then news broke that the store had attracted international travelers of a different sort: bedbugs, enough to shutter the operation for a four-day extermination and ignite the summer’s biggest retail trend.
Soon there were sightings everywhere. Downtown at Abercrombie & Fitch at the South Street Seaport, uptown at Victoria’s Secret on 58th and Lexington, and at Niketown 57th Street, all of which were temporarily closed and debugged. Regardless of the source (Hollister, Abercrombie and Victoria’s Secret share some shipping operations), it was obvious the little suckers don’t discriminate.
So it came as a surprise when in early July a WWD probe of the industry’s precautionary plans of action were largely met with the same response — “No comment” — with only Lord & Taylor copping to a preemptive increase in exterminations. Bergdorf Goodman soon followed, retaining a team of bug-sniffing beagles to patrol its store. Not that anyone should get comfortable.
“The problem is in the growth stage,” Andrew Klein, president of Assured Environments, a pest control company in New York, told WWD in October. “Bedbugs have expanded 100 percent this year.”
Just ask the editors at Elle, where a mid-August infestation prompted a temporary evacuation, while Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and J. Crew have all had encounters, if reports confirmed only a single bug. But as the pest-control truism goes, there’s never just one.