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Men'sWeek issue 12/04/2014

Vineyard Vines chose America’s most famous island for the location of its newest store — Manhattan.

This story first appeared in the December 4, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Stamford, Conn.-based sportswear brand has opened a 2,500-square-foot unit at 1151 Third Avenue at 67th Street, a location that aesthetically replicates the casual, nautical-inspired decor of its other stores, but is the first to open in a large, metropolitan area.

“We’re taking a measured approach to New York City,” said Shep Murray, who founded the brand with his brother Ian in 1998 on Martha’s Vineyard. “We’re privately held and want our retail stores to be profitable, so if we’re going to stub our toe, we’d rather do it with less-expensive rent.”

His brother added: “We weren’t quite sure how to tackle New York City, so we decided to open a neighborhood store in Manhattan. It offers a similar experience to our stores in the suburbs, but it’s not overwhelming and feels like you’re on vacation. And it lets us get our feet wet.”

Shep said there are no plans for opening other neighborhood stores around town or in other metropolitan areas at this point. “But we’re open-minded,” he said. “What we’ve learned about real estate is that it’s all about opportunity.”

The store has exposed-brick walls and a hand-painted mural on the 67th Street exterior of the brand’s name, its pink whale logo and motto: “Every day should feel this good.” Inside, the company commissioned Jarrett Bay Boatworks to build a custom sport fish display and boat transom and tower fixture that serves as the central checkout counter. There are separate shops for men’s, women’s and children’s. Although Vineyard Vines started as a men’s brand — creating whimsical neckties — women’s represents 30 percent of sales and continues to gain traction, the Murrays said.

The store had a soft opening before Thanksgiving and so far, sales are exceeding expectations. They declined to provide a volume projection for the unit, which had its grand opening on Wednesday night.

Before the Murrays started Vineyard Vines, they had both lived in the city, working in corporate jobs, so opening in their former neighborhood was like a homecoming. “We were Upper East Side guys,” Shep said, “so we feel right at home here.”

This store is one of 41 full-price units and 10 outlets that the brand operates around the country. Last week, Vineyard Vines opened its first Men’s Shop at Ocean Reef, a resort in Key Largo, Fla. The location is serving as a test of the brand’s new higher-priced line, with shirts retailing for $200, wovens for $175 and blazers for $700.

Shep said the rollout plan for the higher-priced collection is yet to be determined. “It’s a category we think we can do well with, but we don’t want to alienate our core customer,” he said.

Shep said this will be the last store to open this year, but 2015 will mark another strong year of retail expansion. “We’ll open at least as many stores as we did this year,” he said. In 2014, the brand opened 11 stores, including locations in Houston; St. Louis, and Charleston, S.C.

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