FERRAGAMO IN SOHO, PLANNING PROTOTYPE

Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Ferragamo has a new retail mind-set, and is taking it to SoHo.
The Florence-based design house has purchased a prime site at 122 Spring Street, on the corner of Greene Street, where it plans to open a 5,000-square-foot store in May and hit at least $5 million in sales after a year in business.
Ferragamo is going downtown with its women’s and men’s styles, many of which have been hipper lately, and an untraditional retail environment that company officials tag as elegant and relaxed, more flattering to the merchandise and with a smoother flow from category to category.
The format sets the prototype for future stores and renovations, including a new store scheduled to open in Venice in February. Also, the historic 12,000-square-foot flagship in Florence, situated in a building dating to 1420, as well as Ferragamo’s two Fifth Avenue shops — separate units for men’s wear and women’s wear in midtown — will eventually be renovated.
Stores in Bologna, Italy, and Cannes, France, are also planned for next spring, and just last August, Ferragamo opened on San Francisco’s Union Square, but in keeping with the tone of the town, it’s a more traditional unit.
A wave of designers planted shops in SoHo in the Nineties, including Prada, Polo Sport and Louis Vuitton, and Kenzo is slated to open next month on Wooster Street. Yet, there’s a good reason why Ferragamo followed the pack.
“We’re very stubborn choosing locations,” stated Massimo Ferragamo, president and vice chairman of Salvatore Ferragamo USA. “We never open a store [unless it] will do more than $5 million its first year.” The Fifth Avenue stores combined score $25 million in annual sales, he added.
Such volumes insure good profits, but also require examining demographic and customer data carefully, before committing to real estate, Ferragamo said.
Although the pace of openings has picked up, at two or three annually, Ferragamo doesn’t feel pressed to cash in on the nation’s luxury spending spree.
“It’s great that there is a boom in luxury goods, but Ferragamo really does not react to this, or to a recession,” he said. “In recession years, we’ve grown the most. Opening stores is something you have to plan so far in advance.” Locations in Texas, as well as Atlanta and Boston are being scouted.
He described the SoHo store as “simpler, lighter, more spacious, less compartmentalized, rather than clogged, with a strong art gallery feeling.”
Lynda Abdoo, senior vice president and retail director, said the inventory will be 50 percent shoes, 30 percent accessories, and 20 percent ready-to-wear.
“We want it less traditional, less businessy, more easygoing — and that’s the way the world is going,” Ferragamo said. “The SoHo environment has become more interesting than the greatest streets of the world. And I hate to say it, but it’s also a more European way of living. It reminds me of the center of Florence. There’s a relaxed attitude of hanging out.”
The SoHo location has more than 100 feet of facade wrapping around the corner, providing great exposure. Ferragamo bought the retail portion of the building, which is below a residential co-op. The building was completed in 1883 and is a cast-iron landmarked warehouse site formerly occupied by a ready-to-wear retailer called Laundry Industries. Ferragamo plans to restore the facade.
“I like the idea of combining something traditional with something very new,” Ferragamo said.
The retail strategy is part of a reengineering of the Ferragamo brand into a higher-profile fashion house. Ferragamo wants to balance its successful classic luxury shoes, accessories and ready-to-wear, with younger, more modern attitudes, some sexier styles and theatrical fashion shows to capture greater business and attention from the press.
Architect Michael Gabellini, who is based here, is creating Ferragamo’s new retail environment, taking over the assignment from architect Roberto Monsini of Italy. Gabellini said the SoHo concept is “animated by a presence of linear geometries, translucent light-filled planes, floating surfaces and suspended forms. The purpose of these spatial elements is to convey an environment of modern informality with a feeling of warmth and openness.
“There will be a lot of very complimentary graphic, matte and nonreflective materials,” including Spanish limestone for the floors, with hanging translucent nickel silver chain mail, to create veils or metallic screens that set movement throughout, he said. “The interior will feel like a grand home or salon, something that is very elegant, at the same time intimate and inviting.”

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