Those visiting Times Square on Memorial Day a little after 8 a.m. might have done a double take. Standing cheek-to-jowl on the red steps of the TKTS Broadway discount ticket booths were 750 people, the American employees of Hermès of Paris. The photo op was part of an event unofficially dubbed Hermès Family Reunion, which was held at Manhattan’s Marriott Marquis Hotel.
“We use the word ‘family’ in a very warm sense,” said Robert Chavez, president and chief executive officer of Hermès USA. “It’s all about family and community. It was a great time to bring everybody together, to connect and share. Because we’ve gotten bigger and our business has gotten bigger, we wanted to say that we care about you and want you to feel connected to each other.”
Chavez declined to disclose the budget for the event, but said it “wasn’t insignificant.” Besides the travel expenses, the company closed all of its U.S. stores for three days, so that the retail staff could participate in the reunion.
“We’re aware of the lost sales,” Chavez said. “That’s irrelevant. We told our clients there’s a special company-wide gathering taking place in New York City from May 26 to 28, and said we’ll reopen for regular business hours on May 29. Our clients were very supportive. They got very excited for the store teams.
“It was not at all about business,” Chavez said. “We celebrated our culture and each other. It gave people a chance to meet the people they speak to on the phone and put names to faces. There were all the people who work so hard behind the scenes, the loss-prevention teams and warehouse employees, for example. We wanted to recognize and thank people.”
Hermès ceo Axel Dumas and executive vice president Guillaume de Seynes, sixth-generation members of the founding family, traveled from Paris to address the group. “They talked about the company’s history and efforts in social responsibility,” said Chavez.
The last time Hermès hosted a similar event was in 2011, when 500 employees descended on Princeton, N.J. Chavez said the recent reunion took a full year of planning. “Logistically, getting 750 people to the heart of New York City isn’t easy. It was worth it, I’ve received tremendous messages from all around the country.”