Bally is bringing its new retail concept to New York City, where it hopes to lure a younger audience with interactive store features.
Located in the Meatpacking District at 58 Gansevoort Street, the 3,200-square-foot space is the first Bally Haus concept outside of Milan, which opened in September 2019. It represents a new push for the Swiss accessories and ready-to-wear brand in the U.S., where global chief executive officer Nicolas Girotto, hopes to grow sales by up to 25 percent in the next two years — an ambitious goal that he thinks is achievable, judging from the brand’s quick rebound here coming out of the pandemic.
Girotto said that the Meatpacking District location was chosen because of its proximity to cultural sites like The Whitney Museum of American Art and fine dining establishments — making it a well-rounded destination neighborhood, rather than a stagnant corridor of luxury shops. “One of our objectives is to reengage with local customers and we found that this was a good place to have dialogue with local customers. You can experience different things there — food, entertainment, culture so we found from that sense that Meatpacking was very interesting,” he said.
While the label had long operated a flagship on Madison Avenue near what was once Barneys New York, Girotto said that when he was appointed CEO in May 2019 he made a swift decision to close that boutique — primarily due to high rents and a lack of intrigue in the surrounding neighborhood. That location closed in June 2020, making Bally dependent on key wholesale partnerships like Saks Fifth Ave. in order to convey its brand message in-person (though all of that period was during the pandemic).
“We want to be in a vibrant area that’s not just luxury boutiques lined up one after the other. We want to be next to food, culture and we want to have a dialogue that goes beyond just showing product. The idea of a store is changing and we feel like this is a much more relevant place to be,” said the executive.
The new store takes an omnichannel approach — allowing for greater interplay between Bally’s e-commerce site and in-person experience. It has space for rotating pop-ups and in-store events like panel discussions with thought leaders on topics like sustainability and the outdoors.
Girotto said that the brand’s U.S. sales began rebounding at the start of 2021 and has, in the last three months, been at 10 percent over the same period in 2019. The Chinese market, by comparison, is trading at more than 40 percent of 2019 levels. In the U.S., Bally has already seen its e-commerce rise by about 30 percent year-over-year. But it is still experiencing its share of challenges with much of the European market, which represents about 27 percent of brand sales, still in various states of lockdown and depressed economic activity.
Part of Girotto’s strategy for the U.S. is to increase sales in its women’s category. While globally the brand’s sales are split about 60 percent for men and 40 percent for women, that breakdown skews more toward 70 percent men and 30 percent women in the U.S.
In order to lure a younger shopper, Bally will promote its new Bally Hike collection designed in collaboration with Robert Rabensteiner that plays to its Swiss mountaineering roots. The luxury hiking boot styles, Girotto hopes, will appeal to a new generation of consumers who have an increased interest in outdoor activities, nature and the camping aesthetic.
“I would say that Bally is a brand of quality, craftsmanship — it’s a brand of timeless pieces and an understated vision of luxury. It’s a brand that is paying attention to what surrounds it, i.e. the planet and our engagement in sustainability and our people,” Girotto said of the brand’s selling points.
While sneakers were strong performers throughout the pandemic, Girotto has observed a strong return to dress shoe buying since restrictions began lifting. He said that Bally is currently ranked the fourth top-performing brand at Saks’ men’s shoe floor in New York.
But other U.S. cities are on his close horizon as well. “What we have learned in the pandemic, having most of our sales from e-commerce, is that we analyzed deeply where sales are coming from and that we have untapped markets with very high online demand. So we are looking in Houston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco,” he said. And this same strategy of finding engaging locations with reasonable rents is going global — with other openings slated for London and Sydney in the coming months.