Muji's New Concept Fifth Avenue Flagship Opens Today

New York has had a few Muji stores for quite some time now, but the new 12,000 square foot, two-level flagship (pictured above) opening today on Fifth Avenue across the street from the New York Public Library is promising new departments and products that will bring the store much closer to the full Muji experience that customers in its Japanese stores have come to know.
For starters, it will have the biggest assortment of clothing yet seen in any of Muji's U.S. stores, including a full selection of children's clothes for ages 2 to 10. Customers will now be able to create a customized scent at the Aroma Bar, and, for the first time, personalize their purchases with monograms or a selection of other designs at the embroidery machine station. Other additions include a Cafe Grumpy coffee bar, plants sold in partnership with Green Fingers New York, and a book section focusing on Japanese lifestyle topics. Most notably, for a store so intensely focused on Japan and its day-to-day culture, the retailer is introducing Found Muji, a section devoted to merchandise curated by its creative staff from around the world, currently featuring France's Basque region (pictured below).
Muji almost always has a few opening day surprised up its sleeve, so today will definitely be a great day to check out the new store, but it sounds like we are starting to see more of full breadth of the products that has made the chain so popular back home in Japan.

MUJI 475 Fifth Avenue between 40th & 41st Street, Midtown
Muji Unveils Experiential Concept in Fifth Avenue New York Store (WWD)
See some more images of the new store after the jump

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Muji's New Concept Fifth Avenue Flagship Opens Today" »


Nautica & Lands' End Pop-Ups Push Upscale

Let's just put it out there, The Shophound can sometimes be easily swayed by food.
The prompt offer of hot chocolate and cookies from the nearby City Bakery upon our entrance to Nautica's Holiday season pop-up store (pictured above) in the Flatiron District a couple of days ago was a smart move on the part of the moderate department store mainstay brand. We declined the cookies, mainly because we didn't want to look like too much of a hog, but who can pass up City Bakery hot chocolate? That's not some cheap cup of Swiss Miss, and besides, it forced us to browse for at least long enough to finish sipping our rich and creamy treat.
Oh, yeah, the store. Why we found there was a bit different from what you'll come across in pretty much every Macy's in America. Nautica, like nearly every middle of the road menswear brand is looking to capture an upscale customer who won't be caught in a moderate department store. That's why they have made a special collection for the shop, which features luxurious cabled cashmere sweaters and a sweet raw denim peacoat in place of the more prosaic chinos, windbreakers and polo shirts that the brand is known for. To complement the offerings, Nautica has added Jeans from 7 for All Mankind and Jansport backpacks instead of counterparts from their own brand to mimic the label mixing at the stores like J.Crew and Club Monaco whose customers it hopes to attract. In addition, the store is relaunching the Nautica women's line in the U.S. with similarly uplifted items. Will the gambit work? Nautica's signature navy and white palette has classic appeal at any price point, and boating as a pastime always has an air of the upper classes about it. It remains to be seen if Nautica will be embraced by the more affluent customer it is chasing after so many years of stylish runway shows snd presentations of collections never seemed to fully materialize at retail, but the store shows that the brand can make a case for a more elevated product line if they manufacture it and give people a chance to see it up close.
A similar strategy is under way on a larger scale at the Lands' End temporary store at the long empty Fifth Avenue site (below) that has been home to a string of former Liz Claiborne-owned brands (Liz, Mexx, Juicy Couture) for the better part of two decades until that conglomerate broke apart a few years ago. Most of Juicy's glitz has been finally erased from the space except for the elaborate wrought-iron and brass railing on the staircase connecting the two levels. Stripped down to concrete floors, the store's makeshift ambiance is emphasized by unfinished wooden fixtures and installations (pictured above) which is the perfect backdrop for. . . more cashmere!
Eager to shed the association with its former parent company Sears, Lands' End is also looking to upgrade its fashion image along with its customer base, and what better way to do that than with the multi-ply cashmere poncho that greets customers as they enter the store or maybe a surprisingly trendy navy and white sailor stripe crewneck? With some high profile new execs with tonier backgrounds, the company has hinted that it may stick around at its current Fifth Avenue home permanently. At the moment, it is offering a highly curated array of classic items from its vast inventory in addition to the cashmeres. Chief in the offerings is outerwear, a Lands' End staple. The menswear in particular is showing the touch of its new creative director with more colorful jackets and classic heavy flannel shirts in in updated prints. There are plenty of Holiday gift items, of course, but, more importantly, Lands' End has a whole bar and lounge serving hot chocolate along with its own chocolate mint and salted caramel cookies. After all it will be important to keep your energy up during the upcoming shopping season.

Nautica Pop-Up Shop 134 Fifth Avenue between 18th & 19th Streets, Flatiron District
Lands' End Holiday Pop-Up Shop 650 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street, Midtown


Pop-Ups On The Way From Lands' End, Tie Bar, Spyder
and . . . Marc by Marc Jacobs?

Holiday shopping season is almost upon us, which is the perfect time for any number of companies to get their feet wet in New York's daunting retail scene with pop-up stores. There is possibly no better way to gauge customer interest and get some crucial brand awareness than to have a temporary store on one of the city's high-profile shopping streets. here's a few to look out for with plenty more to come.

The Tie Bar is making a return appearance in the West Village at 411 Bleecker Street with an elegant shop already open and filled with impossibly inexpensive furnishings (pictured above). While even mid-range designer ties can reliably cost more than $100, The Tie Bar's neckwear offerings start at about $19 and rarely hit north of $30. Socks, belts, suspenders and, yes, actual tie bars and clips are all similarly priced, in a setting that could easily double for a much more expensive shop. The former James Perse women's store has been transformed into a genial haberdashery that will be open through the Holidays until January leaving plenty of timer any guy to get himself properly turned out for any occasion.

This week, look for upscale athletic brand Spyder's pop-up store at 68 Greene Street in SoHo to open its doors. We aren't sure exactly how long this one will be with us, but they are bringing the U.S. Ski Team to their opening party, so expect it to be a must-visit destination for the city's serious winter sports men and women while it lasts.

LandsEndPopUp650FifthOn November 11th, that white elephant at 650 Fifth Avenue that used to be the Juicy Couture flagship store (pictured at right) will finally get a decidedly less glitzy occupant as Lands' End moves in for for an extended stay through the end of January. While the longtime mail-order favorite has a small fleet of retail stores as well as a diminishing count of in-store shops in former parent company Sears stores, it has never had a flagship-sized store on this scale in a market like New York. After having been spun off from its flailing parent, Lands' End has been staffing up with some impressive hires including key executives with merchandising experience at places like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and J.Crew. Don't look for the brand to go all haute luxe right away, but an updated fashion image is in the offering. The brand has poached noted menswear designer Ian Velardi away from Bonobos as design director, and we already know he has a gift for adding a modern edge to traditional clothing. If things work out well enough, there's a hint that Lands' End may stay past January depending on the response from Holiday shoppers.

Finally, back own Bleecker Street, there's a bit of a pop-up mystery brewing. The windows at Marc Jacobs' teeny tiny men's store at 382 Bleecker Street have just been blacked out, leaving a message that reads, "Marc by Marc Jacobs Pop-Up Opening August 30th". We all know by now that the Marc by Marc Jacobs label will be history after this season as the line gets re-absorbed by a newly expanded main Marc Jacobs collection. Is the shop staging a final fare-well sale or a greatest hits collection? At the very least, one has to wonder how you can call your own longtime store a pop-up shop? We'll find out on Friday.


Go Behind The Scenes Of Bergdorf Goodman's Spectacular "Crimson Peak" Windows

It's pretty rare for a premier luxury store like Bergdorf Goodman to participate in something as commercial as a promotional movie tie in, but director Guillermo del Toro's "Crimson Peak" has proved to be a welcome exception. Billed as a gothic romance, the film's lavish production design has been an inspiration to the store's visual team, a group that has demonstrated time and again that no concept is too complicated or ornate for them to take on. While the folks at Bergdorf's haven't yet posted crisp photos on the store's blog 5th at 58th, they have released a behind-the-scenes video (embedded above) that shows the team creating and constructing the film's takeover of the Fifth Avenue windows in all of their macabre splendor. The movie opens this Friday, but you have all week to stop by Bergdorf's to check out another in a series of spectacular windows.

Click HERE for a slideshow of the full windows plus many production stills form the film that provided inspiration.


Victoria's Secret Will Put A Flagship Where Forever 21 Skipped Out

The rumors around 640 Fifth Avenue have been swirling for a while. At one point, it was firmly  believed that Niketown would move in after H&M vacated the home of its first U.S. store and its Trump Tower lease on East 57th Street ran out, but we discovered last January that trend driven teen budget chain Forever 21 was to be the next tenant.
Until a few weeks ago.
We aren't sure if it was never meant to be a permanent store but Forever 21 beat a swift retreat from pricey Fifth Avenue last month, leaving a major retail space up for grabs, until lingerie mega-chain Victoria's Secret stepped in to take over the 63,780 square foot store. They won't be hawking bras and panties an the corner of 51st and Fifth right away. The new store is not expected to open until November of 2016, which will give the company plenty of time to transform the space and presumably festoon a remodeled interior in its signature shades of pink.

Victoria’s Secret opening flagship at Vornado’s 640 Fifth (The Real Deal)


Saks Fifth Avenue Announces Its Latest Flagship Makeover Plan

SFAflagshipAt this point, several announcements about major renovations for the enormous Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store have come and gone with little actual activity, often because top management has changed faster than they have been able to implement the ever more elaborate and expensive renewal projects. The most recent one came earlier this year when then president Marigay McKee presented plans which included a series of bi-level designer lifestyle boutiques that would ring the main floor and extend up to the second level creating what we could only imagine to be a construction nightmare that wouldn't actually solve the store's pressing merchandising problems. McKee's noisy but brief tenure as Saks president ended shortly after that announcement, and the plans were apparently scuttled.
Today, WWD reports that current Saks President Mark Metrick has announced a new 3-year $250 million renovation plan that is even more radical, shuffling floors and adding a lower concourse level and even a dramatic new elevator. Ordinarily we would simply sigh and say, "We'll believe it when we see it," but now that Saks appears to have settled more comfortably as a division of Canada's Hudson's Bay Company, we have a feeling that this plan, or at least parts of it, will stick. Here are some of the main points of what will ultimately be a startling shakeup of every floor in the store.

Handbags and Accessories will take over the entire main floor.
One of Saks' longtime merchandising struggles on Fifth Avenue has been an epic fight for space on the main floor of the original building between cosmetics and handbags. Despite the enormous amount of floor space, there has never been enough room for retail's two most profitable categories to coexist peacefully there along with jewelry, and it would appear that cosmetics has won, taking over almost all of the floor space, and pushing accessories to a series of in-store shops around the store's perimeter and an undersized multi-brand handbag section crammed into the escalator atrium. This forced handbag customers to not only shop in a cumbersome ring around the huge main floor, but also to have to contend with aggressive makeup reps while buying purses.
In a reversal, Accessories have now gained the upper hand, and will not only take over the front of the main floor, but also the Swiss Tower sections behind the escalators currently occupied by jewelry. That department will be divided between the new concourse level downstairs to be called "The Vault" for precious gems and watches and part of the tower section of the second floor which presumably will house semiprecious baubles. It's a big change that will not only make it easier to sell those high-margin accessories, but should also mollify some important luxury brands without their own in-store shops who could not have been happy with the puny accessory area around the escalator atrium. This means that...

Cosmetics will move to the second floor.
Competitors Bergdorf's and Barneys have previously solved space problems by creating expansive makeup deportments in luxuriously renovated basements, but Saks will twist that scheme by moving it upstairs instead for 53% more space. The second floor at Saks is currently dedicated to more separates-oriented women's designer collections (they used to call it Designer Sportswear), but the section in the front of the store hasn't seen a major renovation since the 1970s, which is when the dramatic wooden superstructure you see there now was installed. Presumably, it will finally be cleared out. How will Saks keep what must be one of the biggest cosmetics departments in the world humming without the main floor foot traffic? A new glass elevator with a 23-foot staircase spiraling around it as well as an additional escalator will be installed in the center of the main floor to ferry customers up to two and down to the new jewelry concourse. Having cosmetics on two will trade the main floor's hectic —and extremely loud— ambiance for a more relaxing environment that will encourage customers to buy more. It will also save store visitors from having to brave battalions of fragrance models on their way to the upper floors, which is a win for everybody

Women's apparel will shrink from four to three floors.
With cosmetics moving up, women's wear will lose an entire floor, but the entire women's departments are being re-imagined. No longer to be stratified by price between the second and fifth floors, women's departments will now be arranged by lifestyle, with varying price points and different designer collections on every floor between 3 and 5. In addition, a new department call "The Ballroom" will be created on the 9th floor devoted only to eveningwear including shoes, handbags and jewelry. Bridal will also be included on the floor as well.

While Men's will remain on 6 and 7, it too will be rearranged with more of a lifestyle point of view, and other departments will be tweaked and moved around. The plan is one of the most elaborate store renovation plans we have seen, but, assuming it is fully carried out, it will give Saks some long overdue changes and updates. Don't get too anxious to see the results, however. It is not projected to be completed until 2018. In the meantime, there will be much construction disrupting the store, but when it is finished, it should result in a state-of-the-art ready to do battle just as fierce competitor Nordstrom sails into town.

Master Plan for the Saks Flagship Breaks Convention (WWD)


& Other Stories To Join COS On Fifth Avenue For A Late October Opening

As an example of how the bewildering PR system at H&M sometimes works, let us remember about six weeks ago when it was officially announced that the popular contemporary chain COS would be opening its second U.S. store on Fifth Avenue in part of the space on the northeast corner of 42nd Street that had been quietly abandoned by H&M, its parent company. What would take the rest of the space, we all wondered?
Well, no official announcement appears to have been made other than big sign in the window telling us that the other budding chain from H&M, & Other Stories, will be joining its sister for its second store in New York —and the entire U.S, for that matter.
We won't have to wait too long for the trendy chain's expansion. What must be a pretty firm opening date of October 30th is clearly included in the window, which makes this scenario a striking mirror of the stores' arrivals in SoHo when the more sophisticated COS was the first to be announced, but lagged months behind & Other Stories in actually opening to the public. On Fifth Avenue, COS is still "opening soon" which could mean this Fall, Christmastime, next Spring or just when they are damn good and ready.
We aren't complaining. We'll take more COS anytime whenever they want to give it to us, but now we know for sure that both of H&M's up and coming nameplates are on the road to expansion in New York and beyond. If the new stores are as well received in Midtown as they have been in SoHo, you can bet that there will be more of both coming your way soon.

Flagship Flash: COS To Open On Fifth Avenue In Former 42nd Street H&M


COS To Open On Fifth Avenue In Former 42nd Street H&M

COSlookbookWhen H&M's sizable store at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue quietly closed several months ago, the speculation began as the Swedish chain maintained the lease and sources suggested that it would be converted to a new format.
Would it be COS or & Other Stories? One of the two H&M owned chains that debuted in SoHo a year or so ago was bound to be replicated uptown, and now it looks like COS will definitely be opening in the space sometime before the end of 2015.
And maybe the other one too?
The catch is that COS will only be taking 3,982 square feet of selling space, a fraction of the size of the former 2-level H&M store. Even with extra space for stock and back offices, that leaves plenty of room for another store, suggesting that & Other Stories could still expand uptown and take up residence next to its more elegant sibling, unless the rest of the space was subleased out which is another possibility.
In any event, New York shoppers will likely be thrilled to find another COS location. Even though 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue is heavy tourist company, COS has been a huge hit in the city, and the SoHo store is regularly packed with customers snapping up the brand's sophisticated yet well-priced collections. The upcoming store is part of a major expansion for the still relatively young chain. COS announced a major global expansion yesterday that included 5 more North American stores in addition to the Fifth Avenue unit. Look for the COS craze to only get bigger as the Fifth Avenue countdown begins.

Note: we originally misquoted the square footage of the upcoming COS store as 3,357 square feet. It has now been confirmed to us as 3,982 square feet.


Apple To Take Over FAO Schwarz Space During Flagship Renovation

The Apple Store pictured above will temporarily move into the building behind the cube later this year.

While we don't yet know what will ultimately become of the FAO Schwarz retail space in the GM Building after the iconic toy store moves out on July 15th, we now know that the next immediate tenant will be the Apple Store which is reportedly taking over the place while its main flagship store underneath the plaza in front of the building undergoes an extensive renovation. The news was disclosed by Apple retail chief, senior vice president Angela Ahrendts to the Associated Press in an interview promoting the company's newest outlet set to open tomorrow on Madison Avenue. Though that new store will contain the company's signature minimalist wooden tables and fixtures, the building around it is reported to be a meticulous restoration of the former U.S. Mortgage & Trust building which will include chandeliers re-produced from vintage photographs and the original vault converted into a private shopping area —fitting for the store located in the neighborhood most conducive for selling the pricey golden AppleWatch Edition.
But back to Fifth Avenue. The famous store with the "cube" is included among the roughly 20 U.S. Apple Stores set for major renovation as they have outgrown their spaces since the introduction of the iPhone and other new products that have transformed the company's offerings. Exactly when the Fifth Avenue store's renovation will begin or how long it will take is unclear, though it is likely to start as soon as the FAO Schwarz space can be converted to Apple's temporary requirements. When that happens, the GM Building's Fifth Avenue retail spaces will be entirely devoted to temporary stores with Cartier on the northern corner, waiting for its own flagship a few blocks downtown to finish its extensive revamp, and Apple on the southern side. While the famous "cube" entrance is expected to remain, it sounds like the rest of the store will be dramatically updated. Whether or not the temporary store will maintain the flagship's 24-hour schedule is also unknown at the moment, but Apple is uniquely fortunate to be able to take over a large high profile location only steps away so it can continue doing business at it's highest volume retail outlet without any interruption.

In With The Old: Apple Restores Former Bank For New Store (AP)


FAO Schwarz Officially Closing In July

FAOSchwarzOfficialWe have been hearing about FAO Schwarz's departure from its longtime home in the GM Building on Fifth Avenue for months, years even, but now we have a more definitive date —and it's practically upon us. Bloomberg Business is reporting that the renowned toy store will be shuttering its iconic store sometime in July, well in advance of the end of its lease in 2017 leaving the company without a physical store as it searches for a new flagship. Toys "R" Us Inc,  which owns FAO Schwarz, promises that a new store should be open by late 2016, which leaves a long stretch for the company to be without an outlet. Recent rumors have had the company eyeing a large Apple Store-like space in the Paramount Building at 1633 Broadway between 50th and 51st Streets that is best known as the former home of space-age theme restaurant Mars 2112. The building itself is configured similarly to the GM Building with a front plaza and situated just above tourist friendly Times Square which would make the proposed FAO Schwarz store an appropriate replacement for the immense Toys "R" Us store that is also set to depart its home a few blocks downtown.
So far, the only thing that is confirmed is the Fifth Avenue store's impending closure, though a replacement site should be determined so. As for the expansive space in the GM building to be vacated, most speculation has it being subdivided to create a few separate retail spaces, although a big store with deep pockets could come along and take the whole thing. With Apple in front, and a temporary Cartier store on the other side that may become permanent, it will become one of the highest profile unclaimed retail sites in midtown.

FAO Schwarz’s Manhattan Store to Close in July as Rents Rise (BloombergBusiness)