BERGDORF BUILDS ON EXCLUSIVES
Byline: David Moin
NEW YORK — Bergdorf Goodman wants to maximize its already highly productive selling floors by layering in exclusive lines with luxury standards. Next month, the store opens a Best & Co. children’s shop. It’s a brand sold only in Greenwich, Conn. Last week, Bergdorf’s gave one of its lushest women’s labels, Agnona, its own shop in a prominent spot on the fourth floor.
Agnona was selling at Bergdorf’s previously, but according to Ron Frasch, Bergdorf’s chairman and chief executive officer, the label has more growth potential than any other women’s collection at the store, considering it’s new space and product range, including ready-to-wear, sportswear and home products. Meanwhile, Best & Co., he said, could amount to a “megaleap” in children’s volume.
Bergdorf Goodman launched a 500-square-foot Agnona shop on its fourth floor last Thursday, elevating a brand that embraces elegance, ease and exclusive luxury fabrics.
The new shop comes at a time when the owner of Agnona, Emenegildo Zegna Corp., plans to raise awareness and volume of the brand in the U.S. and Europe. It’s a vertically structured brand, creating its own fabrics, designing garments and operating stores.
A store in SoHo on Spring Street here is planned for spring 2002, and remodels and new sites, both in-store and free-standing, are in the works in Italy, in such places as Venice, Florence, Milan, Cortina and Sardinia. Agnona, based in Italy, has factories that create luxury fabrics for clothing, knitwear and home collections under the Agnona label and sells to other designers.
Bergdorf’s has the New York exclusive distribution for Agnona women’s products, until the SoHo store opens. Bergdorf’s ceo Ron Frasch called Agnona “the most significant volume opportunity we have in women’s in terms of growth” and predicted the shop could do as much as $2 million to $2.5 million in annual sales.
“It’s perfect for our customer,” he said, noting that it helps fills a niche for luxury classic sportswear with a casual elegance.
Currently, Akris is Bergdorf’s single-biggest ready-to-wear business, but Agnona is closing in.
Two years ago, when Zegna took over Agnona, it closed the Agnona shop on Madison Avenue.
“It didn’t have the right image. It was small and not doing well,” said Paolo Zegna, ceo of Zegna Worldwide, who along with Mario Giraudi, president of Agnona Worldwide, visited their shop in Bergdorf’s recently.
They said Agnona was better represented by its retail clients, including Bergdorf’s, 12 Neiman Marcus stores, Wilkes Bashford, Stanley Korshak, Ultimo and about 35 other women’s specialty stores around the country.
Bergdorf’s fourth-floor Agnona shop is wide, though not deep, but does provide greater segmentation for the brand and sells some Agnona accessories and home products, which are also housed on the first and eighth floors. A one-day trunk show at Bergdorf’s brought in $350,000 in sales two months ago.
The collection is coordinated and geared for customers around 35 and older. It includes outerwear, pants, skirts, jackets, dresses and knitwear. Agnona is about a $45 million wholesale brand and about $120 million at retail worldwide.
Bergdorf’s Best Angle
Best & Co., a department store with a fine reputation in children’s wear until going out of business in 1970 on Fifth Avenue and 51st Street, was resurrected by Susie Hilfiger four years ago as a classic children’s shop in Greenwich, Conn. For her second act, she is creating a 1,400-square-foot Best & Co. children’s department inside Bergdorf Goodman, on the seventh floor.
The shop, expected to open in mid-to-late August, replaces another children’s area and will have “a wide range of products with an old-world charm,” Hilfiger said. Ellen Keogh, president of Best & Co., cited $8 receiving blankets and $280 cashmere blankets, $58 wool sweaters and $230 cashmere sweaters, exclusive Dragons of Walton Street hand-painted furniture, including step stools for $75 and canopied cribs for $2,000, as well as cotton turtlenecks, hand-smocked dresses, underwear, outerwear, pajamas, slippers, playclothes and dress-up items, with sizes from infants to eight.
While Bergdorf’s has been satisfied with its children’s business, “We were really impressed with Susie’s operation,” said Ron Frasch, Bergdorf’s chairman and chief executive, who visited Best & Co. a year ago with Peter Rizzo, Bergdorf’s president. “Her approach gives an entirely new dimension to our business with her exclusive products,” and could mean “a very quick megaleap forward,” in volume, Frasch suggested. He estimated sales “north of $2 million” for the upcoming shop.
Best and Bergdorf’s have a five-year agreement [with a renewal clause] structured similarly to other leased areas in the store, like the Susan Ciminelli day spa, the John Barrett hair salon, and the Kentshire jewelry and antiques areas. Watch departments and restaurants are also leased. “We prefer to own our businesses, unless it’s a business that can elevate our profile in a product category tremendously,” Frasch explained. “We do have leased departments, but it is not our strategy to go leased.”
Hilfiger, who is married to, but separated from, designer Tommy Hilfiger, thinks Best & Co. could develop into a chain. If Bergdorf’s succeeds with the concept, Neiman Marcus would be a logical next step, since both stores are divisions of the Neiman Marcus Group. However, Hilfiger said there are currently no expansion plans beyond Bergdorf’s.
Her motivation for reviving the Best & Co name: “I have four children. I’ve shopped for them all over the world, and always found it challenging to find playclothes or basics that were simple, classic, without logos — something tasteful.”