polo baby boy Ralph Lauren to Open Upscale New York Store
Polo Ralph Lauren will open a Manhattan store on Friday that’s likely to attract rich tourists. The store, built to resemble a mansion, will be the brand’s largest women’s store and will also feature home collections and new lines of lingerie and fine jewelry.
The building and the products scream glamour, but despite the $159,000 diamond necklaces, retail analysts said rich tourists and New Yorkers were not the store’s only intended audience. In a classic effort of brand building, the store is also meant to excite more ordinary shoppers who sustain the company’s profitable polo and khaki business, the analysts said.
“They build these big stores, and when they open them, their critics may say, ‘Polo doesn’t make any money on their stores they’re not profitable,'” said Michael Binetti, an analyst at UBS. “But when you go to the Macy’s or the Lord Taylor in the area, and you can touch that brand at attainable price points in those stores, that’s where the real juice is.”
“I know that as I started to build my own stores, the business got better,” he said. “It helped Neiman’s and it helped Saks, and it helped identify what we are all about.”
He was sitting on a white couch on the second floor, with sun slanting in through huge windows and a spa version of the Guns N’ Roses song “Patience” playing overhead. With mannequins posed like bored socialites (one, apparently overcome with ennui, was draped over a coffee table), the store felt a lot like a Parisian hotel.
When two uniformed waiters materialized with cups of coffee on a silver tray, Mr. Lauren smiled. “Are you sensing this is a stage set?” he asked. “This is not about ‘Look how glitzy we are.'”
Polo built the store to resemble a classic New York mansion. Since 1986, it has had a store in the former Rhinelander Mansion across the street at 72nd and Madison, but it added this one to give the women’s and home lines much more room. The company has also said recently that urban and tourist stores are doing better than regional and local ones, and this store is meant to be a draw for tourists.
Indeed, across the street at the men’s store, there was hardly an American accent to be found among the shoppers, and many carried New York City guidebooks.
“They’ve been there a long time, and it’s somewhat of a destination,
” said Laura Pomerantz, principal at PBS Real Estate. “There is certainly traffic there as a result,” she said, “and it’s a well heeled tourist.”
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Down a limestone staircase with wrought iron railings to the third floor, there are more casual lines not found in department stores. To the side is the RLX sportswear, like a neon pink jacket for $298, and in the main rooms, feathered sparkly pants, leather coats and cashmere sweaters. There are also hoodies for dogs.
The second floor houses the Purple Label line, which offers expensive versions of runway clothes, and the first floor is handbags, shoes and jewelry. The store has several firsts, including a lingerie line, fine jewelry and made to order suits for women. It is also introducing its version of fast fashion, where customers use an iPad to choose a clothing item and a monogram color and style, and a pair of seamstresses in the basement produce the order within minutes.
What is missing are the lower end products that are sold wholesale to stores like Dillard’s and Macy’s: the piles of chinos, sweatshirts and socks emblazoned with the Polo horse.
In its fiscal year 2010, ended in April, wholesale and retail sales contributed around the same amount to the company’s revenue, $2.5 billion for wholesale, and $2.3 billion for retail. But wholesale contributed more than double the operating income, at $585 million, versus $254 million for retail. While revenue fell 1 percent in fiscal 2010, in the most recent quarter, it was up 13 percent from the same period a year earlier, and sales at stores open more than a year, an important indicator of retail health, rose 7 percent.
“You make your statement when you’re advertising and when you’re opening stores,” Mr. Lauren said. “When they shop your stuff in the department store, they see your things and they know it’s Lauren.”