LAUREN’S 1ST KIDS’ STORE MAKES DEBUT IN LONDON
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — Ralph Lauren has a new baby — his first freestanding store for children’s wear.
The 2,500-square-foot store is at 143 New Bond Street here in the same location as Lauren’s previous flagship. The designer closed that store in May when he opened a four-story, 24,000-square-foot flagship at 1 New Bond Street.
Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. was reluctant to give up the site at 143 New Bond Street because of its special meaning to the designer, personally and professionally. Lauren opened his first freestanding flagship there in 1981. The store became the best-performing Lauren store worldwide in terms of sales per square foot, eventually generating sales in excess of $16.2 million annually.
Lauren executives had toyed with several ideas for the site, including a store for his home collection. But the space was considered too small to adequately display the full line. Lauren executives then decided not to include children’s wear in the new London flagship at 1 New Bond Street and to convert the previous flagship to children’s wear.
The store carries the designer’s boys’ and girls’ collections for newborns and infants and toddlers and boys’ wear for ages 8 to 20. It also carries his new collection for girls of seven to 16, which was launched in the U.S. this fall. The new line — as well as Lauren’s newborn, infants and girls’ toddlers collections — are all exclusive to the store.
In addition to the Lauren children’s wear lines, the store sells some pieces such as cushions and some bed linens from his home collection. There also is a selection of baby gifts and classic children’s books.
Retail prices for the children’s wear range from $16.20 for a bib to $526.50 for a tuxedo in boy’s ages eight to 20. But most prices are in the $75-to-$250 range, and Lauren officials said the store is competitive with prices only one level above those of Gap Kids or Jigsaw Kids in Britain.
There is the same attention to detail in the new children’s store as in every other Lauren retail site. The company gutted the entire store and filled it with dark mahogany fixtures and Persian-style rugs for the older children’s collections and seagrass flooring and white walls for the newborn and toddlers’ areas. The fitting rooms are decorated with Oxford-cloth striped fabric and Black Watch and Tartan accessories.
It’s the touches that make the difference — a pedal-driven red car, a red bicycle modeled on one used by the Swedish Army, a full-sized saltwater tank with exotic fish, teddy bears, tiny toy cars and walls filled with nautical paintings and black-and-white photographs of children — and adults — at play.
The store is believed to have cost an estimated $2 million to $3 million to convert to the new format.
“I had a vivid picture in my mind of how a child’s world should be…a perfect balance of tradition and ingenuity — combining classic looks with a strong sense of adventure,” Lauren said in a statement. “It had to be authentic and imaginative — like kids really are. The new children’s store allows me to realize my ideal vision for kids…and the opportunity to do it in London is incredibly exciting.”
The store opened Dec. 3 and James Hardy, managing director of Polo Ralph Lauren U.K., said it has performed above expectations. He declined to provide sales forecasts, but said all categories have sold well.
“We grew to be the most successful Polo store in adults over time and we hope this can be just as successful,” he said.