CLUB MONACO PLANTS FLAGSHIP ON FIFTH AVE.

Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Club Monaco opens its 12,000-square-foot U.S. flagship here on Fifth Avenue Saturday, giving an upbeat spin to the chain after last week’s disclosure that 11 stores will close.
Roger Farah, president of the parent corporation Polo Ralph Lauren, projected the flagship, between 54th and 55th Streets, will do between $10 million and $20 million in sales in its first year.
“We’ve done phenomenal in the New York market,” Farah stated Thursday. “We will cluster this market. We are negotiating for two more stores.” He declined to disclose the locations. In addition to the flagship, Club Monaco has four other units in Manhattan.
Other markets have been less phenomenal, making for a less-than-satisfactory performance for the chain overall this year. Club Monaco, based in Toronto, was purchased in May 1999 by Polo, which this year took over the management. It’s currently searching for a chief executive to run the division.
The 11 Club Monaco closings, occurring over the next six months, are in more remote Canadian locations, rather than urban markets. Club Monaco will end the year with 62 to 64 stores, with about one-third in the U.S. Despite this year’s concerns, the corporation still believes there is the potential for around 200 stores in the U.S. alone.
The flagship serves as a showcase for new products and categories that the chain has been rolling out over the past couple of years, including cosmetics, which is played up in the front of the store with a self-service corner. The cosmetics are also wholesaled to Sephora, Saks Fifth Avenue and a few other department stores, and were introduced two years ago.
Shoes were introduced last month and are priced around $199. Boots are around $345.
Farah said that with four floors, there’s room to bring in additional categories not yet sold in the U.S. stores, such as soft home goods under the Caban label, launching Thursday in Toronto. Farah said the home goods could eventually be sold on the third or fourth floor of the Fifth Avenue store. For the opening, however, only the first two floors will be used for selling, with the top two for offices. The store has 4,750 square feet for women’s wear, cosmetics and shoes on one, and 3,000 square feet for men’s wear on two. There’s also a concierge desk on the first floor.
Overall, the store has a strong business-casual appeal with a fashion edge, plus lots of classic cashmere turtlenecks, priced at $169, as well as crewnecks and tweeds. Many products, such as metallic “shine” alpaca turtlenecks, priced at $109, can be matched with tweed pants, priced at $129, for more of an evening look.
“You are not going to see just a classic bomber at Club Monaco,” said George Poulios, East Coast regional manager of Club Monaco, as he displayed a leather “mason” coat, at $599.
The building has landmark status, which posed some architectural challenges in the construction. As a result, instead of the usual wide-open single-level stores, this one has separate, more intimate areas, like in-store shops, which help differentiate the merchandise by category.
The Fifth Avenue location, formerly occupied by Bijan, was designed by architect Deborah Berke. It has 20-foot windows for a broad view of what’s inside and a clean look with walnut wood floors and black-and-white photos of Richard Avedon’s advertising campaign for the chain, as well as a stone wall and a translucent skylight previously hidden by sheetrock.
“The idea was to create a modern interior with a lot of texture, so it’s more sophisticated architecturally than some of the simpler Club Monaco stores we’ve done in the past, to appeal to the more sophisticated Fifth Avenue customer,” said Berke. “It’s richly textured.”

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