If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
That was the thinking of Paul Stuart, which will open its first pop-up store in the Hamptons this week.
The 1,900-square-foot space at 50 Main Street in Southampton will carry the company’s collection of men’s and women’s apparel and accessories and remain open through Dec. 31.
“When we were able to do curbside pickup [at our Madison Avenue flagship], we started calling our customers,” explained Paulette Garafalo, chief executive officer. “We have a very close relationship with them, many of whom have been our customers for years — we don’t get a lot of walk-ins.” But nearly every person the staff called said they weren’t planning to return to New York City until after Labor Day and would instead be staying out in the Hamptons, the Berkshires or elsewhere in the suburbs.
At the same time, Paul Stuart’s head of merchandising heard about an empty storefront in Southampton and suggested Garafalo consider it. “It was perfect for us, and in two weeks we had signed the lease,” she said. “We’re moving in now and we’ll be open July 1.”
She said in addition to summer merchandise such as bathing suits, knit polos and other sportswear, the store will sell suits, sport coats, robes, shoes, even made-to-measure merchandise. “It’ll be the same breakdown as our other stores,” she said.
Garafalo revealed that Paul Stuart will open its first Custom Lab outpost, another pop-up for the company’s newly launched opening-price-point made-to-measure collection, on Greene Street in SoHo in September.
“Brick-and-mortar has been so tough, but while everybody else is closing stores, we wanted to be brave in the worst of times,” she said. “We’re looking at these stores as more short-term lease stores than pop-ups and we’re treating them like full-service stores. Our intention is to experiment and see if there are long-term opportunities for us.”
Garafalo said the company’s four U.S. stores have reopened and while the two Chicago units are doing “extremely well,” the Washington, D.C., store is newly opened and still not attracting business, and the New York flagship is struggling. “New Yorkers are not coming back into the city so quickly,” she said. “That’s why we had to find a location outside of town. Right now the rents are favorable and we’re a small business so we have the flexibility to take advantage of that. We have the inventory — we were closed for three months and no one has even seen spring — so there are opportunities we want to take advantage of.”
Garafalo took over as ceo in June 2016 and is the first non-family member to helm the retailer. Mitsui bought the business from the founding family at the end of 2012. It had been the company’s Japanese licensee since 1975 and operates more than 100 Paul Stuart shops in Japan as well as two flagships in Tokyo.