Byline: Marc Karimzadeh

NEW YORK — Say goodbye to Looney Tunes and hello to luxury retailers.
With blockbuster theme stores like Warner Bros. and Coca-Cola deserting Fifth Avenue in the last two years after helping to make the area a mass market mecca, some upscale sparkle is being restored to the street’s midtown neighborhood.
In fall 2003, Asprey, the British luxe lifestyle brand, will open a 28,000-square-foot store at Trump Tower on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. The space will consist of Asprey & Garrard’s existing 9,000-square-foot unit, with an additional 19,000 square feet of adjacent space currently housing Salvatore Ferragamo’s men’s store.
Asprey is likely to become one of the priciest retail projects in Manhattan. Although Philip Warner, chief executive officer of Asprey & Garrard U.S., declined to disclose financial details of the deal on Monday, the remodeling plan will mirror that of the company’s London flagship, which is estimated to be costing about $50 million. Industry sources, meanwhile, said the rent in its new enlarged Fifth Avenue location will be about $1,200 per square foot. Rents on Fifth Avenue can be over $1,000 a square foot, although industry observers admitted the Asprey & Garrard rent is on the high side.
In comparison, Escada, which opened its flagship on Fifth Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets last October, spent $12 million for its 17,400-square-foot store, while Hugo Boss’ 23,000-square-foot store on the southeast corner of 56th Street and Fifth Avenue cost between $6.6 million and $7.7 million.
Ferragamo, meanwhile, is expanding at 663 Fifth Avenue into 655 Fifth, on the northeast corner of 52nd Street, to create a 30,000-square-foot flagship, with about 20,000 square feet for selling. Another store guaranteed to be costly is Louis Vuitton on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, in the former Warner Bros. space, which at nine levels, measured 75,000 square feet, with about two-thirds of the space to be used for selling. Vuitton parent LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton spent an estimated $100 million to buy the building and is expected to open a 15,000-square-foot Vuitton store in late spring 2003, with the rest used for office space.
“There was a time when theme retailers started to move in and some of the brands were moving out to Madison Avenue, but that trend seems to be reversing with Vuitton, Dunhill and Escada,” said Asprey & Garrard’s Warner. “It would appear that foot traffic can support these larger stores, and there aren’t many properties of this size on Madison.”
The Trump Tower space will become the new U.S. flagship for the Asprey brand when it opens. Asprey & Garrard will split into two separate brands on April 22. As reported, owners Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou are injecting millions of dollars into the two companies, with plans to roll out 12 Asprey stores over the next five years. The number of planned Garrard stores has yet to be confirmed. Their aim is to compete with such luxury firms as Vuitton, Bulgari, Gucci, Prada, Tiffany and Cartier.
“We wanted to be in the center of the luxury section of Midtown, so we searched above 50th on Fifth through 57th and up into Madison,” said Warner. “We thought it would be beneficial to be located in the same area we have been located in for the last 19 years. When we established that Ferragamo was willing to the vacate the space, the opportunity to secure it was too good to miss.”
The new retail space will be designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and English interior designer David Mlinaric, who are responsible for the London flagship store, also due to open in fall 2003. Details of the new store design have not been disclosed, but it will not house the Garrard brand, and Warner said the company is still searching for a suitable space for the fine jeweler.
Asprey was founded 220 years ago. In addition to jewelry, silverware and leather, the company is aiming to become a complete luxury lifestyle brand, with such categories as ready-to-wear, shoes, fashion accessories, watches, writing instruments and home accessories. The company recently hired Hussein Chalayan as creative director for rtw, Alessandra Gradi for jewelry and Thierry de Baschmakoff for silverware, leather goods, watches, homeware, eyewear and fragrance.
In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001, Asprey & Garrard Group registered consolidated revenues of over $70 million, with two stores, in London and New York, and a showroom in Beverly Hills.
“We see the U.S. as a very important part of the strategy, and that is why we are making a substantial investment in New York,” said Warner.
Construction will start with several phases at the beginning of 2003, which “will enable us to trade from existing space to start with, and perhaps a portion of the space during most of 2003 until we open,” he noted. “Now the real work starts.”

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