Byline: Michael Marlow

LOS ANGELES — Yves Saint Laurent is calling it quits on Rodeo Drive, for the time being.
The Yves Saint Laurent boutique, carrying both women’s and men’s collections at 428 North Rodeo Drive, will close at the end of the month, store manager Beatrice Cederstrom said Sunday, confirming reports of the shutdown.
YSL plans to open a smaller store carrying just women’s in Beverly Hills by next summer or fall and preferably on Rodeo Drive, she said. No location has been determined. She noted that 95 percent of the business in the current store has been in women’s merchandise.
The closing of the 5,600-square-foot store comes after a two-year run that raised the designer’s presence in Beverly Hills but reportedly resulted in lower sales than originally expected. Annual volume was about half of the $5 million projected when the store opened, sources said. Cederstrom would not disclose figures.
However, she said, the store — which was spread over two levels — was plagued by its large size. She said volume was good for a designer boutique, but “the size of the store is overwhelming,” adding, “It goes hand-in-hand with the rent.”
Laurent Levasseur, chief executive of YSL of America, did not return phone calls about the shop last week, but local store employees were informing customers of the closing this weekend. Big “Sale” signs were in the windows, and all apparel and accessories were marked down 50 to 60 percent. Cosmetics and fragrances were marked at regular price, however.
The store opened in October 1993 on the same block as Giorgio Armani, Polo/Ralph Lauren and the new Chanel boutique. But YSL never had the success of its neighboring retail powerhouses.
California’s recession is also being blamed in part for the closing, according to store personnel. And one retail real estate broker said the design did not invite customers into the store. The front entrance features two display cases that are pushed together after hours — blocking the view of the boutique from the street.
News of the closing spread quickly through Rodeo retail circles, with many chalking it up to the difficulties of operating a one-designer boutique. Other single-name shops that have closed during the last three years include Ungaro, Sonia Rykiel, Krizia, Azzedine Alaia and Leonard. In addition, Gianfranco FerrA took back control of his store from an independent local retailer.
“I’ve owned two [single designer shops], and they weren’t successful,” said Rodeo veteran Herb Fink. “I think in many instances they are there for advertising and to help with the perfume business.”
Fink opened and closed freestanding stores for Rykiel and Claude Montana. After closing, he brought the designer lines back to Theodore, the top-label boutique he has operated on Rodeo since 1969.
The loss of the YSL store — even though temporary — is a blow to those who want to keep Rodeo Drive a showplace for European and American designers, and many Rodeo boosters are hopeful that a Calvin Klein or Donna Karan will replace it. Meanwhile, the YSL label continues to be carried in the area by Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue, both of which are on Wilshire Boulevard near Rodeo Drive.
Although Rodeo currently has one of its lowest vacancy rates in recent years, this has been achieved with more popular-price stores. Guess raised eyebrows when it opened four stores on the 400 block of Rodeo. And this fall the arrival of the Franklin Mint — adjacent to Hermes — has made some question the future direction of the posh shopping area.
Early next year, however, the designer contingent gets another entry when Moschino opens its first Rodeo Drive store at 362 North Rodeo, next to Benetton and across from Salvatore Ferragamo.

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