The Hermès man and Hermès woman in New York will no longer have to look longingly at each other from their retail locations on opposite sides of Madison Avenue.
Hermès of Paris Inc. on Wednesday said it has signed a lease agreement for a five-story modern building connected to a restored Twenties bank and in 2022 will open a new flagship at 706 Madison Avenue that will unite both of its worlds.
The company didn’t divulge the square footage of the new location, but according to sources, the size of the combined buildings is about 40,000 square feet. There is also two outdoor spaces, a terrace on the fourth floor of the updated building and an area on the roof of the former bank.
When the Madison Avenue unit opens it will join the brand’s other major flagships in Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai.
The new flagship, on the west side of the street, will have its main entrance on Madison Avenue between 62nd and 63rd Streets. The existing men’s store is on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and 62nd Street, while the women’s store is on the east side of the boulevard.
Hermès’ lease is a vote of confidence for Madison Avenue, which has been challenged with vacancies since the 2008 recession. According to the Real Estate Board of New York’s fall retail survey, the Madison Avenue corridor notched its seventh consecutive year-over-year drop in asking rent to $1,160 a square foot, a 7 percent decline.
“We’re thrilled about Hermès’ long-term commitment and what it means to the avenue,” said Rick Friedland, a principal at Friedland Properties, which owns the site. “Balenciaga and Celine just made commitments to Madison Avenue. We’re hopeful that this signifies some resurgence on the avenue. A brand like Hermès making a commitment to Madison Avenue is very positive.”
The French luxury brand reportedly has been on the lookout for a situation that would allow it to remain on Madison Avenue and bring men’s and women’s under one roof. It is said to have outgrown its current locations. A gallery at the women’s store was converted into a shoe salon and the category has been so popular that Hermès in July opened a freestanding pop-up shoe salon in SoHo that operated for six months. The category requires more back of the house space for inventory.
“Our shoe business has really been growing exponentially,” Robert Chavez, chief executive officer of Hermès USA, said of the pop-up shoe salon. “The shoe category is significant for new client recruitment. It’s bringing new customers to the web site and stores alike based on the contemporary appeal of the collection. We wanted to expose Pierre Hardy’s collections to a new audience.”
The Americas is a major focus for Hermès, which is apparent from the new retail projects on tap for the brand. A 6,700-square-foot store will open on Feb. 29 at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando, Fla., considered a large multidimensional market with its 65 million annual tourists and its Winter Park enclave of wealthy local residents.
Hermès next month will open a three-level, 10,000-square-foot store at 46-48 Gansevoort Street in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, a new retail concept with technology features and a casual vibe for the neighborhood’s younger residents. “The store will have much more of a downtown feel,” Chavez said. “It’s not as formal a presentation as you’d see uptown. [We’ll] attract lots of existing customers. Our hope is to also bring in a lot of first-time customers.”
Chavez is known for taking calculated risks with real estate. The brand will open an 8,000-square-foot, two-level unit at American Dream, the $3 billion mall and entertainment center under construction in East Rutherford, N.J. American Dream has the potential of delivering to the Parisian brand a different consumer. The retailer in May unveiled a store in Palo Alto, Calif., and is expanding its San Francisco flagship, which will bow in the fall.
The Madison Avenue flagship is being designed by RDAI, the Paris-based architecture firm founded by Réna Dumas, the late wife of Jean-Louis Dumas, who was ceo of Hermès until 2006, and who died in 2010.