Bebe has a new format for its sole U.S. store and views it as a prototype.
Last year, Bebe shuttered all of its U.S. stores, except for its Manhattan flagship at One West 34th Street. That store closed temporarily in May, reopened in November, and closed again last month to renovate to a “lifestyle” format with a variety of services and wider array of styles than seen in past seasons.
On Thursday, Bebe will officially introduce the format with a party at the flagship. If it’s successful, it raises the possibility that Bebe rebuilds a brick-and-mortar presence beyond 34th Street.
“It’s a new concept — a complete lifestyle store,” Glenn Palmer, president of Bluestar Alliance, told WWD on Thursday. “Our intention is to open up additional flagships across the country,” he said, though added that he has no other locations to report. He did say the flagship is performing above plan, but would not disclose any statistics on the performance.
Two years ago, under financial pressures, Bebe formed a venture with Bluestar Alliance whereby Bebe remained a public company, but contributed its intellectual property to the venture, and Bluestar contributed $35 million. Last year, the decision was made to close all 160 of the U.S. stores, while continuing with bebe.com and the international stores, which are licensed to distributorships.
The 34th Street store is licensed to Global Brands Group Holding Ltd., which supplies most of Bebe’s merchandise and is responsible for overseeing the brand’s e-commerce platform and international stores. Bebe also wholesales to Macy’s Inc., Nordstrom Inc., Bloomingdale’s and some off-price chains.
The contemporary brand targeting women ages 24 to 35 has had a store at One West 34th Street for years. The revamped store could serve as the prototype for future units, in the U.S. and abroad.
The 1,400-square-foot concept store features a beauty bar in partnership with BeGlammed beauty service, which enables shoppers to have their hair and makeup done on-site; a personalization bar where shoppers can customize whatever they purchase with Swarovski crystals, patches and embroidery; a lounge where Bebe plans to host discussions and events with influencers and fashion industry insiders, and on weekends, there’s a DJ in the store, which is apropos to Bebe’s clubby image. Bebe is known for its party dresses, denims and sexy styles, though the collection has been broadened to include more daytime looks, such as floral dresses.
The store also has stylists to help shoppers and iPads to order from the Bebe web site, and behind the checkout counter is a Bebe sign made of 38,000 Swarovski crystals.
“Every area of our elegant, modern store space has been thoughtfully designed to bring shoppers an experience personalized to them at an accessible price, whether they’re just hanging out, picking up an outfit for an evening or event, or looking for personalized tailoring, styling and service,” said Sandra Campos, copresident of women’s apparel, contemporary brands, at Global Brands Group.
Though Bebe’s 170 U.S. stores were liquidated last year, the brand determined it was still important to have a flagship presence, which supports the e-commerce business and vice-versa.
The 42-year-old, Brisbane, Calif.-based Bebe is one of the original contemporary fashion brands and has a history of being edgy and orchestrating assertive marketing and advertising campaigns.