Paul & Shark wants to take a bigger bite out of the U.S. market.
The Italian luxury brand, which was created in Varese, Italy, in 1975, will significantly expand its reach by opening two stores and relocating two others in the U.S. over the next year. The brand operates three units in America: Madison Avenue in New York, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and Aventura in Florida. Globally, Paul & Shark operates 233 monobrand stores in countries ranging from Mexico and Colombia to Turkmenistan and Macau. There are 91 stores in Europe, 61 in China and 22 in Russia.
The newest Paul & Shark store slated for the States will open at the Forum Shops in Las Vegas in mid-April. The 1,500-square-foot unit will sport a new look that moves away from the old color scheme of cognac toward lighter eucalyptus wood on which apparel and accessories will be displayed. The design, by Milan-based architect Takeda Katsuya Design, will also include a translucent back-lit glass wall and updated fixtures intended to create a warm and intimate atmosphere. The look will be reminiscent of the company’s new Milan headquarters and will include a storefront of aluminum sheet patchwork that is intended to evoke the feeling of waves of water. Since the Seventies, Paul & Shark has been inspired by yachting and its sportswear offering reflects that sailing heritage.
“We’ve been trying to get into the Forum Shops for some time,” said Rachelle Giroux, president of Paul & Shark USA, “but our stores are usually 1,500 to 2,300 square feet and smaller spaces don’t come up very often. This is one of the most profitable malls in the country, and we think it’ll be a very successful store.”
Giroux said Paul & Shark’s “international exposure also makes us a very welcome store in a city like Las Vegas.” She is expecting it will draw a lot of visitors from China and the Middle East as well as America. “There’s really not a country where we don’t have one or two stores, so people coming to America recognize the brand.”
Because of the size of the store, it will offer only men’s wear, although the brand also has women’s and children’s wear. She said the new design is “very masculine, and that’s where our customer feels most welcome.”
In addition to Las Vegas, Giroux said the company will revamp its Rodeo Drive store as well this year. There is 1,700 square feet of selling space on the main floor and another 700 square feet on a mezzanine. “Now, we’ll extend the back where we had storage and have 2,000 square feet on the main floor,” she said.
The outside will also include the blue aluminum sheet as a facade designed to look like undulating waves, she said.
The store, which is across the street from Ralph Lauren and sandwiched between Lacoste and Max Mara, is expected to be completed by September.
“Then, in 2016, we’ll be expanding our Aventura store from 1,400 to 2,200 square feet,” she said. “It’ll be our new concept, but bigger and better.” That store is expected to be completed in March 2016.
At the end of the year, Paul & Shark will open a 1,900-square-foot store in the Houston Galleria.
In addition to its own stores, Paul & Shark is sold primarily at independent specialty stores in the U.S. and Canada, as well Nordstrom in both countries.
With a history that dates back over 30 years, why the big push into America now?
“We feel it’s the right time to invest in the U.S.,” Giroux said. “It represents less than 10 percent of our business and we’ve not yet ventured into e-commerce or outlets. We’re in specialty stores and one major, so based on that, we believe there’s an opportunity to reach the male consumer looking for luxury sportswear.” Paul & Shark has annual sales of 200 million euros, or around $225 million, with only $22 million coming from the U.S. The bulk of its business is in Europe.
Expanding its own retail network is also an important strategy for the company.
“We don’t have many retail stores in America,” Giroux said. “We’re still a family-owned company and finding the right locations in the right size is not easy.” She said the company pulled back during the recession, but since the economy has improved, the time is right.
When it selects a market, it must be one with at least 40 percent international tourists, she revealed. “We have good brand awareness with this group.”
As a result, Paul & Shark is exploring “travel retail opportunities” in the States. “As a company, we have 35 airport stores around the world, but none here,” she said. The duty-free shops in Europe and Asia do well, she said, and she expects the same reaction in the U.S.
Paul & Shark offers three distinct men’s wear collections: the core and colorful yachting-inspired sportswear collection, a Smart Casual line that is more muted, and a limited luxury collection for men who are less concerned with price. For example, a chinchilla coat here will retail for $10,000, while a wool-cashmere blend coat is $2,000. All three lines will be offered in U.S. stores.
“The American customer may not be as familiar with the brand so [they] may start with a shirt or a sweater and invest more later,” she said. While the three-season-old luxury line represents the smallest percentage of the business, “it’s growing.”
To further increase its visibility, Paul & Shark in January opened its first showroom in Milan. A longtime exhibitor at Pitti Uomo, the brand will exit the show and starting next season will use its new headquarters to showcase its collections. “We want to put our best foot forward in Milan,” Giroux said. “We’re on the calendar in June and we won’t do a runway show, but we’ll do a presentation. We feel it’s the right time.”