NEW YORK — Those flirty dresses with flutter sleeves, floral patterns or cold shoulders are selling and Lord & Taylor is on top of the trend.
In an otherwise tough retail season, the retailer is capitalizing on “a dress cycle” and on Thursday unveils its redesigned fifth floor at the Manhattan flagship, containing 30,000 square feet devoted entirely to dresses — from prom looks and vintage styles to contemporary and designer labels.
To attract a range of customers, the price spectrum is broad, from a $109 Nicole Miller striped chemise with a ruffle bottom to a $10,000 Marchesa lace gown.
With the addition of 25 dress labels not previously carried, there’s more than 70 now in a setting with 16-foot-wide main aisles and 30 percent greater space for the category. Previously, the bulk of the dress assortment was dispersed on the third and fourth floors of the flagship, which is on Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets.
For decades, Lord & Taylor has been synonymous with dresses. “It’s a heritage business for us,” said Liz Rodbell, president of Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay department stores, who for a tour of the setting on Tuesday appeared in an Amanda Wakeley black asymmetric hemline dress.
“There is definitely more of a range. We want the Dress Address to be for everybody. We have created more of a destination for what’s been such an important category,” Rodbell said, referring to the tagline Lord & Taylor has used in years past, but has revived for branding purposes. It’s noticeable in the marketing, and on the dress floor, which is an impactful and spirited presentation adorned with cherry trees, art, polished porcelain tile with herringbone wood inserts, brass screens, bright LED lighting, and large fitting-room suites with tufted sodas and chandeliers, twirling zones and mirrors with adjustable lighting so customers can see how they look for day or evening occasions.
There’s also a panoply of mannequins by Ralph Pucci, including those created for Pucci by Rebecca Moses, set on platforms for front-and-center fashion statements.
According to Rodbell, who in the Eighties was a dress buyer at Lord & Taylor, the store has created the largest dress floor in the city. “We’ve had our team out measuring,” she told WWD.
To herald the dress buildup, Lord & Taylor has stepped up the marketing with a Grand Central Terminal subway takeover, taxi tops, bus shelters, digital advertising, a two-day charity event to support Girls Inc. on March 31 and April 1 and Thursday’s launch party with singer, song writer and actress Janelle Monae from the movie “Moonlight,” who is scheduled to sing for the crowd.
Asked what makes dresses a heritage business at Lord & Taylor, Rodbell replied, “It’s the selection, the service, insuring that the customer is satisfied with the fit, and we accessorize. With dresses the fit is so important. And because of that, the service component is so important.”
She said there are 38 stylists on the floor, 30 percent more than before, and they are all trained on products arriving to the floor. There is also coverage in the fitting rooms, a concierge greeting customers and connecting them with the stylists, and 35 fitting rooms with call buttons, selfie sticks and illuminated mirrors that feature adjustable mood settings for day, home, office and night. Aside from the fifth floor, dress collections can be found in plus sizes, petites and children’s departments through the store.
Through the other 49 locations that comprise the Lord & Taylor chain, “We have expanded the dress areas and added more stylists in every one of our stores,” Rodbell said.
She declined to cite any statistics on L&T’s dress business, but said, “It’s a top category — one of our biggest growth categories.” She said there have been positive sales gains, without specifying.
“We are in a dress cycle,” Rodbell said, noting the popularity of dresses with bell sleeves and sleeve interest generally, one-shouldered looks, ruffles and midi lengths, as well as those with floral prints, cold shoulders and flutter designs.
Among the features on the floor is a pop-up space that will change quarterly and currently houses one-of-a-kind vintage dresses, including a $1,500 Oscar de la Renta lace soutache dress; a Bob Mackie Grecian-style jersey dress priced $2,195, and a Valentino sequined dress with a full taffeta skirt for $945. The space has been curated by Cameron Silver, cofounder of the Decades store in Los Angeles. The assortment is complemented with Kenneth Jay Lane and Miriam Haskell jewelry. Paper Crown, designed by Lauren Conrad, will be the next pop-up installment.
There’s also the Gallery department for designer dresses. It has its own branding, packaging, complementary alterations, personal shopping suites and fitting room suites with tufted sofas and chandeliers. There are luxury dresses from Marchesa, Naeem Khan, Zuhair Murad, Temperley London, Antonio Berardi, Luisa Beccaria, Reem Acra, Preen by Thorton Bregazzi and other designers.
On the other side of the floor is a “full prom statement,” Rodbell said. There’s also a contemporary zone with labels including Trina Turk, Laundry, Shoshana and Rachel Rachel Roy, and several exclusives such as Mika & Gali and Cynthia Steffe.
“There’s a young, fun, timeless, energetic spirit to the floor and it’s not tricky to shop. The merchandise jumps out,” said Pucci, who said over 100 of his mannequins are positioned on the floor.
Among other designer dresses on the floor are Tadashi Shoji, Calvin Klein, BCBG, Halston Heritage, Karl Lagerfeld Paris, Eliza J, Jill Stuart, Rachel Rachel Roy, Eliza J, Belle by Badgley Mischka and Cushnie et Ochs.