CHANEL TO OPEN BOUTIQUES FEATURING SHOES AND BAGS
Byline: David Moin
NEW YORK — Chanel, which sells in the U.S. through 17 of its own stores and 110 other retail locations, is ready with a more specialized strategy: boutiques featuring just shoes and handbags.
The first will be launched in the Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey, on March 19, and about another half dozen U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, are being considered.
The company has been testing the concept since 1999, when the first shoe and handbag boutique opened in Paris on Rue Royale. It’s part of a drive to sustain growth and further tap markets where it already has a presence.
“We’re very pleased with the results there,” said Barbara Cirkva, executive vice president of fashion for Chanel Inc., in an interview Monday. “The time is right to do this in the U.S. We believe that there are six to seven other cities that offer the opportunity.” Cirkva stressed, however, that Chanel will let this expansion unfold slowly, just as it did with its regular store expansion, and won’t let it cannibalize business at Chanel stores or other retailers that carry Chanel products. “We want to have seven or 10 months worth of business [in Short Hills] before we make any commitment to additional points of sale.”
The Short Hills site has 2,000 square feet, including 1,500 for selling. It will open with a full assortment of shoes, handbags and small leather goods from the 2001 spring-summer accessory collection and will introduce the new travel line, La Nouvelle Ligne Voyage.
For this boutique, architect Peter Marino utilized the new Chanel concept launched in the U.S. in Chanel’s Palm Beach, Fla., store, rather than the Rue Royale shop. At the entrance, there’s an open, triangular-shaped space. To the right will be free-floating shelving with black and gold carbon fiber, moveable panels and glass shelves. To the left will be shelving with handbags, luggage and small leather goods; and in the center, a freestanding glass fixture.
The Short Hills boutique will be on the second level of the mall, close to the Saks Fifth Avenue branch, which does not carry Chanel goods. However, Neiman Marcus in the mall does carry Chanel products and will carry some of the same styles that will be seen in the specialized Chanel boutique, though Cirkva noted that the boutique will have “a broader and deeper assortment.”
“We don’t see any issue with the Neiman Marcus business,” she said. “The business will just get larger in Short Hills. When we open a boutique, it’s so visible and dynamic that it just increases the business totally.” She declined to project volume for the new store.
Regarding other locations for the new boutique strategy, Cirkva said the Beverly Hills area could be a consideration, though not on Rodeo Drive where Chanel already has a full-line store. The Los Angeles market could support a second shoe and handbag boutique and northern California is also a possibility, she added.
“Other smaller cities where we have only a wholesale distribution, such as Atlanta, places like that, are possibilities. We certainly wouldn’t put one down the street, if you will, from where [we] have a full-line store.”
As for full-line Chanel stores: “I think we are in all of the major key luxury goods markets,” Cirkva said. “This new strategy allows us to go into some additional markets, where we may already have two points of sale,” which would typically be Neiman’s and Saks.
Chanel handbags range from $600 to $1,600. The new travel line offers small handbags priced at $450 and up to $1,200 for totes and carry-ons. The lines includes luggage and coordinating leather goods and was launched last month. Chanel also has been actively renovating stores around the country and is planning a full-line unit in the Honu Project on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, Hawaii, to replace a unit in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.
Chanel also has a unit in the Ala Moana Center in Waikiki.
In addition to handbags and shoes, Chanel offers ready-to-wear, fragrance, cosmetics, leather goods, watches and costume and fine jewelry.
Couture collections are presented exclusively in Paris. Chanel has 81 freestanding boutiques worldwide, including the famous House of Mademoiselle Chanel on the Rue Cambon in Paris and the 17 American shops.