In entering the U.S., just as many foreign retailers fail as succeed. Yet Printemps will take the plunge next year for a second go at it.
The Paris-based luxury department store first came to the U.S. in 1984 when it opened a store on the outskirts of Denver. Three years later, it closed. Other foreign retailers that entered the U.S. with stores and eventually shut them down have included Galeries Lafayette, Takashimaya, Topshop, Tesco, Carrefour and Joe Fresh.
Printemps in New York will be challenged to present a differentiated assortment from uptown luxury competitors like Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue and to come up with compelling marketing and communications to familiarize locals and tourists to its brand.
There’s also the challenge of being situated in New York City’s financial district, where many affluent people work and live but just aren’t much in the habit of shopping high fashion in the neighborhood. It’s been a problem in the past for luxury stores to draw sufficient shopper traffic. Saks closed its women’s and men’s stores that were situated in Brookfield Place, and Barneys New York had a store there too that ultimately closed years before the business liquidated. The financial district quiets down on weekends, which are often bigger volume days than weekdays, and many office workers now work from home on Mondays and Fridays.
Still, Printemps has several things going for it, even if most Americans aren’t familiar with the retailer. As the plan stands now, it’s modest in scope. Printemps will be situated at the base of One Wall Street, a 50-story condominium with 550 units. The store will be compact, with just two selling floors covering a total of nearly 55,000 square feet, which is about one tenth the size of Printemps’ Paris flagship.
Also, Printemps Group chief executive officer Jean-Marc Bellaiche told WWD earlier this year that the company will try to bring brands to the New York store that are new to the market. Uptown luxury retailers would be pressuring its vendors not to sell to Printemps, though it’s likely that certain designer brands sold at the retailer in Europe would stay loyal and ship the New York City store. The assortment will be developed through wholesale buying, with no leased shops anticipated, and with a mix of big brands and newer labels for fashion, jewelry, beauty, gifts, home and decorative. There will also be a significant food and beverage presentation, Bellaiche said, with a Champagne bar, a coffee shop, a cocktail bar and a brasserie.
Helping the bottom line, Printemps won’t have to pay rent since the Royal Family of Qatar, which owns Printemps, also owns One Wall Street. Having a rich owner/landlord means Printemps will likely be allowed some time to try to find its way, and the royal family is bound to be considering additional Printemps sites in the U.S. Former Saint Laurent, Gucci and Ralph Lauren executive Laura Lendrum has been appointed CEO of Printemps America.
Look to Printemps’ smallest store in France, the 12,900-square-foot store in the seaside town of Deauville, for clues about the upcoming Manhattan store. It’s what Printemps considers a “concept store” devoid of brand counters in favor of a cross-merchandising approach with a sophisticated residential feel. Upon its opening last May, Bellaiche told WWD, “Deauville will give you a foretaste of what New York will be like. New York will represent an even bigger investment, particularly in terms of architecture, but in terms of offer, in terms of rationale, it will also be a very large concept store rather than a department store.”