NEW YORK — The Anthropologie name is in lights at Rockefeller Center, one of this city’s most fabled places.
Anthropologie’s 22,000-square-foot store at 50 Rockefeller Plaza is to open today in a space that includes a renovated movie theater — but the marquee is about all that remains. Still, it is an apt symbol for a brand whose theatrical and creative display of merchandise has made shopping an adventure for its loyal customers.
The largest room on the main level has soaring ceilings and a mezzanine trimmed by a wrought iron railing. Much of the apparel presentation is arranged around the perimeter of the floor, which is cut out to reveal the lower level. A dramatic limestone stairway leads downstairs, where more apparel is displayed. A room that opens onto the building’s concourse level features bath and body products and a New Age fountain where water courses through thin copper pipes.
Most Anthropologie stores employ two full-time visual display staffers, which would be considered a luxury even for larger retailers. The Rockefeller Plaza store has five. In addition to finding new materials for fixtures and displays, the visual team creates art installations in the store windows. For the opening, the esoteric theme was, “Exquisite use of materials within the confines of repetition of shape,” a spokeswoman said, adding that the chosen shape was the Ovid.
“It’s one of the physically most attractive stores I’ve seen in a long time,” said Richard Jaffe, a retail analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, who estimated the store might do $15 million to $25 million in sales its first year. Jaffe, who wrote in a research note in April that Anthropologie missed a seismic shift in women’s fashion — a less feminine style with fewer embellishments — said, “The summer product was a real improvement over what we’ve been seeing in stores. They’ve done a good job of cleaning up their looks without losing their identity.”
Sales will likely get a boost because the space is in the middle of one of New York’s major tourist destinations — adjacent to Radio City Music Hall and across 50th Street from the “Today” show studios and the skating rink where the famed Christmas tree resides during the holiday season.
Glen Senk, president of Anthropologie and executive vice president of its parent company, Urban Outfitters Inc., was careful not to call the new store, which took about eight months to renovate, a flagship when he gave a tour on Wednesday afternoon. “The word flagship is disrespectful to our other 81 stores,” he said. “Every store has to be profitable.”
Senk said flagships got a bad name in the Nineties when some luxury retailers viewed their Fifth or Madison Avenue locations as advertising vehicles rather than profit centers.
“Anthropologie only has two stores in Manhattan,” he said. They are in the Flatiron District and SoHo. “We felt we could have a third.”
Urban Outfitters said it is poised to reach about $1.36 billion in sales this year, according to Stifel Nicolaus. Anthropologie had sales of $395 million last year. Stifel Nicolaus estimated volume of $473 million for 2006.
There are new collaborations in the fashion area.
Anna Sui, Tracy Feith, Isabel Marant, Odessa Whitmire and Ruby Canner, and Louis Coviello are some of the names with which Anthropologie has teamed up. Sui, for example, designed a high-waisted silk dress, $228, and Tracy Feith supplied a jersey knit dress stamped with pool-blue and gold leaves, $328. “We’re committed to collaboration,” Senk said. “We’re kind of unique in the industry. We’re 50 percent vertical and are committed to keeping the market portion. Not many stores can buy 10,000 to 15,000 units. We’ve gotten to the point where we can sell those price points. We’re selling more expensive products.”
The top prices at Anthropologie have inched up to $600 to $700 for dresses, $600 for handbags and $800 for shoes, Senk said.
Prices for the company’s own labels are gentler. For example, a black Odille shirtdress is $158; Elevenses pants are $128 and Louie jeans sell for $88.
What’s striking about the new store is the space between fixtures, as if the merchandise has been given room to breathe. “We consciously lightened the density over the last few years,” Senk said. “Personally, I don’t want to go to a store and be faced with too many choices.”
While home products occupy the entire room to the left of the entrance — in addition to glassware, bedding and home accents, there’s a gargantuan French cabinet for $45,000 — the category is mixed in with apparel throughout the store. One alcove off the main apparel area features decorative pillows and rugs. In another small room there is a couch and display of teacups and saucers. A room opposite the main entrance has been designated as an art gallery. The first “exhibit” is Lost & Found, decorative objects by Serge Rosenzweig, who uses old bakeware pieces, iron fences and used gas tanks to make sculptures, which range in price from $980 to $1,800.
“At the Rockefeller Plaza store, home products and apparel equally share floor space,” Senk said. “We do about 70 percent of our business in apparel. We think about the gestalt of the business, not the specific sales per square foot. We always think of our business in personal terms. We certainly have financial responsibilities. We feel the products feed off each other. Margins in home and apparel are amazingly similar.”
Just as the apparel has gotten cleaner, home has added products with a retro modern look as opposed to antique tole tables, mirrored dressers and Louis VI chairs. A sofa covered in a bold black-and-white Marimekko print, rugs with geometric designs and plates with batik floral decals are examples of the new direction.
Leading the way to the lower level, Senk pointed out the waiting area for significant others outside the dressing rooms where a pair of chocolate velvet couches flank a table stacked with books. “I hate banks of dressing rooms,” he said, showing off the labyrinth of 30 rooms.
A long, narrow, windowless room with sale signs on each rack is the markdown room. “We don’t have a clearance center,” Senk said. “We have these in our newer stores.”
“We never use price to drive business,” Senk said. “If we make a mistake or have an end of size or color run, we take a markdown.”