Even though retail has been tough for the past unseasonably warm season, one category seems to weather consumer glitches a bit better than most. The highest end jewelry and watches will always hold appeal in New York if not for the locals then for the endless stream of tourists that pass through the city at any given moment. We have already seen Bergdorf Goodman unveil a bigger, better precious jewelry salon, and just a few blocks down Fifth Avenue, a similar expansion is under way at Wempe, the city's most prestigious watch store.
You may be thinking that Tourneau is the leader in that category (and it's really a matter of opinion), but while the big T has more locations, more brands and generally more flash, Wempe is the one with the more concentrated focus on the most luxurious and exclusive watchmakers without all of those designer and mid-range, mass brands. While they have never tried to be all things to all people like their great competitor, they are about to get quite a bit bigger. It all came about last year when it came time to renegotiate its 15-year lease on the Fifth Avenue side of the Peninsula Hotel at 55th Street. Rather than getting the old rent-hike heave-ho that so many of its longtime neighbors —even major designers— have recently been faced with, Wempe was offered the opportunity to take over the Lindt Chocolate and Swarovski stores next door. Well, those guys got the heave-ho, obviously, but we're pretty sure they will be fine. Wempe will now be extending its red carpet to around 5,550 square ft. to transform itself into the newly dubbed Wempe XXL. Rather than broadening its assortments to fill all that new space, the store is expected to maintain its current lineup of watchmakers, but offer a greater depth of merchandise. That will mean more option for customers in search of the perfect Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and , of course, Rolex and the like. Look for the store to reveal its renovation sometime this summer, just in time to take advantage of summer tourist season, or, as we like to call them at the high end, non-local clients.
The main floor at Bergdorf Goodman will be a construction zone for a while as a major overhaul continues through next year, but the first phase of the revamp has been unveiled (mostly). Not only does it consolidate the store's somewhat scattered jewelry display into a coherent salon, but it aligns the store with its immediate neighbors like Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels as a major player among the city's purveyors of precious baubles. While the previous arrangement which interspersed the handbag and jewelry offerings made for an entertaining meander through the main floor, it wasn't the most efficient format for selling either category, and specifically lacked the kind of intimacy expected from major jewel purchasers. Consolidating jewelry into the 57th Street side of the floor is a more conventional arrangement but gives the department a new potency that will be emphasized with a redesigned entryway and façade on that side of the store that will actually eliminate the large display windows in favor of smaller windows more suited to jewelry. New plywood covering the ongoing construction (pictured below) shows the updated exterior design which will mimic 58th Street's main entrance. Despite its heavy traffic, the 57th street entryway was actually considered the store's "back door", but now that West 57th Street in being developed, for better or worse, into a "Millionaire's Row" of extravagant luxury towers, an upgrade seems to be in order.
But back inside, the new Jewel Salon quietly opened over this past weekend revealing a 1930's French Moderne-inspired interior featuring a pearl-gray based palette that will eventually extend throughout the main floor. Now set off from the bustle of the rest of the floor, the new salon has a more hushed ambiance, but still has its share of visual excitement with a pair of glittery, starburst chandeliers and paneled walls with beveled edges that recall gemstone cuts. Hexagonal display pieces also subtly allude to the shapes of the stones they contain. Another addition less apparent to the casually browsing customers is a private viewing room, a mainstay of the highest-end jewelers, for exceptional clients and special trunk show events.
The new salon is only the first element of the store's elaborate "2020 Vision" plan which will include more renovations throughout the store and eventually allow it to capture two more floors of selling space as executive offices and other behind-the-scenes facilities are moved into an adjacent building next door on 58th Street. The whole project is meant to position the store for the future. "Timelessness is a very important mantra for us will all of our design decisions," senior vice president, women’s fashion and store presentation director Linda Fargo tells WWD, "What we do today in my lifetime is not going to be touched again for a long time. With something like a main floor, my feeling is this is definitely going to have to last another 20 years.”
We were all pretty excited to hear that Barneys New York will soon be re-inhabiting the location on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea where it became a world-renowned retailer during the 1980s. If you think, however that the new store will simply slide into its old home with minor renovations, then you don't know Barneys these days. While the exterior of the store has remained relatively intact while construction crews ripped out any trace of the former Lehmann's flagship that took over what was the larger part Barneys' original Men's Store, plywood scaffolding went up a few weeks ago to obscure what looks like a major redesign of the store's façade. The Shophound got a peek inside yesterday afternoon through door left carelessly ajar that shows that the entire ground floor of the store's frontage has been demolished including the grand entrance and the windows that once housed Simon Doonan's infamous Holiday displays. Rumors have the second floor exterior blown out as well, but, so far, that remains to be seen?
What will the new Barneys look like?
Chances are it will have a lot of glass, steel and slabs of marble like its Madison Avenue counterpart, so anyone hoping for a nostalgic feeling when the store finally reopens may have to adjust their expectations.
And about that opening date . . .
About a year ago we heard that the store was pushing it's projected opening forward to January of 2016, and while that was promising news at the time, it seems hard to believe that a new façade could be completed in three months, not to mention that the store's interior space still looks completely gutted.
We may have to cool our heels for just a little bit longer before Barneys once again graces Chelsea with its presence.
The fate of the lumbering behemoth known as Macy's in Brooklyn has been decided, and while the store will stay put, it will be both shrunken and dramatically overhauled.
Over the past couple of years, the Shophound has been following the state of the huge and historic but woefully out of date Macy's store in Downtown Brooklyn. The centerpiece of a renewed Fulton Street shopping corridor, the enormous nine-floor store is one of the largest in the chain, but has failed to keep up with both the newer influx of retailers to the area and the increasingly affluent population inhabiting the Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods that are literally in its backyard. About a year ago, Macy's officials announced a long overdue renovation for the neglected store, which began its life in 1865 as the Abraham & Straus flagship, that would renovate it from top to bottom. Surprisingly, the plan was put on hold a scant few weeks later as the store began to explore other real estate options for the valuable site including a possible sale or redevelopment of the building and a move to a smaller site nearby. The newly updated plan will include a combination of several options. Yesterday, Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren revealed a scheme that will shrink the floor from its current nine floors to the first four levels plus the basement. The upper floors will be sold to real estate developer Tishman Speyer for $170 million who will also cover the costs of the renovation below with another $100 million over the next three years.
While it sounds like the store will be substantially reduced in size, it will actually only go from 378,000 square feet of selling space on nine floors to 310,000 square feet on five. Upgrades are said to include uncovering windows to allow more light as well as renovated bathrooms, escalators and elevators along with a general refurbishment of the of the space. A walk through the store today would reveal an ungainly patchwork of poorly sequenced departments as well as an ill advised mezzanine level on half of the main floor that creates cramped shopping spaces and obscures parts of the building's original architecture. However, a closer look reveals striking Art Deco architectural details like a lavishly decorated bank of elevators at the store's center (pictured below) and carved marble frieze work framing the main entrances on Fulton and Livingston Streets (pictured above). Ultimately, it will be a few years before we see the results of the renovation, but given the store's rapidly gentrifying locale, the opportunity for a freshly made-over Macy's in Brooklyn to do big business is huge.
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.
We knew this would be happening at some point, but the big Saint Laurent flagship store on east 57th Street is finally about to get the full Hedi Slimane treatment. Now that the SoHo store and three in-store shops at Saks and Bergdorf's (Men's and Women's) have been fully Slimane-ified, they are, apparently, finally getting around to bringing the boutique at 3 East 57th Street up to aesthetic code and having the official store design installed. Regular customers won't have too much trouble finding Saint Laurent's temporary home. It's just on the other side of Fifth Avenue at 3 West 57th Street (above), in the same place that so many other Midtown boutiques (Coach, Chanel, Burberry etc.) have used during their own renovations, but before Saint Laurent moves in, it needs its own sprucing up before it will be suitable to house the super-persnickety designer's collections.
Of course, the least interesting part of this whole scenario is how the permanent Saint Laurent store will look after its makeover. We can pretty much picture it right now, because all Saint Laurent retail spaces look exactly the same now, just as if they were Starbucks or 7-Elevens. We can safely predict that there will be lots of white and black marble with glass and chrome, and probably some boxy, minimalistic black leather upholstered furniture. We like to think that maybe they will surprise us with some unique design touches, but we aren't holding our breath.
Almost a year ago to the day, The Shophound took a jaunt down to a store we would ordinarily not have gone out of our way to visit, the Macy's flagship store in Brooklyn (pictured above).We were curious to compare state of the city's other sizable Macy's to the lavish renovations that were happening in the mother ship at Herald Square. What we found was a dingy mess of a store, but one that inhabited a historic Art Deco structure that still had some elegant bones that could have been unearthed and polished. The potential for a thoughtful, transformative renovation was high, especially since the store was well situated on a resurgent Fulton Mall and only blocks a way from Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens —what is now one of the borough's most affluent areas. About six months later, Macy's announced that indeed they were planning to refurbish the Brooklyn store to take advantage of those very things, but now WWD is reporting that the planned renovations are on hold, and may never happen. In fact, real estate in that section of Brooklyn is now so valuable ($300 - $400 per square foot) that Macys could stand to make $300 million by selling the historic building at 422 Fulton Street, demolishing it and redeveloping the site to include a new residential tower which would feature a smaller, more productive brance of Macy's on its first few floors, not unlike the the Nordstrom tower currently under construction in Manhattan. No officials from either Macy's or potential developing partners had any comments for WWD, but its sources point out that the existing building, which was originally the Abraham & Straus flagship before it was absorbed into the Macy's chain in the 1990s, is actually a combination of a few buildings with inconsistent floor plates and levels that don't line up easily from floor to floor. A proper renovation would likely be extra costly even by New York retail standards, so the idea of having a more efficient, newly built store that was "right sized" for the neighborhood would be very attractive to practical minded Macy's executives.
Of course, there is also potential in revitalizing a historic building. In its current, dingy state, Macy's Brooklyn is not attractive to the upscale communities in its backyard, but a real re-imagining of the store could unlock a valuable customer base nearby that could justify the store's large size, particularly in kitchen, bed, bath and other home goods departments that aren's as well represented in the area. That would be a nice thing for fans of historic department stores to imagine, but given the current manic character of New York real estate development and its insatiable appetite for glittering luxury towers, the demolition option seems more likely at the moment. While no firm announcements about the store's future have been made, anyone with any affection for the city's grand, old retail palaces —even the ones which aren't terribly well maintained— may want to take a visit to Macy's Brooklyn flagship. it may not be there for much longer.
Macy's Rethinking Brooklyn Unit's Future (WWD)
What Does The Macy's Renovation Mean For The Rest Of The Chain? (7.17.2013)
Macy's Plans An Overhaul For Brooklyn (1.24.2014)
Restaurant bloggers were abuzz earlier this year when Keith McNally announced that his scene-making Meatpacking District bistro Pastis would be closing earlier this year to accommodate renovations to the 19th Century stable building it has lived in since 1999. He has promised that it will reopen in the same place once the renovations are complete, but the city's foodies have been skeptical amid rumors that the restaurant would move to other possible locations including the Beekman Hotel or the space which P.J.Clarke's currently occupies in Brookfield Place (which comes with its own contentious story of tenant-landlord discord). McNally has remained steadfast, but DNAinfo is now reporting that Restoration Hardware has filed a 'Memorandum of Lease' document with the city indicating that it plans to take over the entire building at 9-19 Ninth Avenue once a modern steel and glass two-story addition on the roof is completed (pictured in the rendering above). Normally, this would be a lot of space for Restoration Hardware, but the home furnishings chain has recently disclosed plans for big flagship stores in major cities that include more of a lifestyle point of view that could include its own restaurants or even a hotel. The long standing Flatiron district location has just added two more floors and redubbed itself RH New York, The Gallery in the Historic Flatiron District featuring a broader assortment and expanded decorating services. Could the same thing be headed across town to the Meatpacking District? The building's landlord is not confirming that any tenant has been signed for the renovated building throwing both McNally's and Restoration Hardware's plans into question. Considering that the rooftop addition could take a while, we might not know what the full plans are for the building anytime soon, but we will be watching for more developments.
After a few weeks of rumors that it was shutting down for good, J&R has indeed closed the doors of its multi-level electronics superstore, promising that it would return to its familiar Park Row location when the site had been redeveloped in 2015. Over the past several months, J&R has been systematically vacating the various stores along the street that held its photography, music and housewares stores, and now the main electronics location closes today. What may be raising a few eyebrows is that the retailer has apparently chosen not to open an alternate, temporary location to maintain its business during the redevelopment, though it will continue to sell merchandise through its online store. The six-story building will be reclad in glass, and presumably reopen with the electronics retailer inside. In a letter to customers published on the store website J&R's owners call the proposed remodel (rendering pictured at left) an "unprecedented retailing concept and social mecca", with more details to be announced.
Park Row Redevelopment (J&R Official Site)
Last Saturday, Cartier shut down its storied Fifth Avenue Flagship for extensive renovations expected to last for two years including an entirely new main floor, enlargement of the penthouse, a dramatic new staircase and Fifth Avenue façade as well as a major overhaul and upgrade of its heating, lighting, ventilation and air conditioning systems. To take its place, the jeweler has taken over part of the GM building previously occupied by the CBS Morning Show, which has spent nearly a year undergoing its own renovation to create a suitable space for an Haute Joaillierie. The "temporary" store is expected to open next week, with the exact time frame for the moving of merchandise a closely guarded secret for obvious security reasons, but an article in The New York Times suggests that the jeweler may hang on to the space even after the flagship reopens. At 8,000 square feet, it will be the jeweler's biggest, even larger than the heritage store at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street. It will boast extravagant 22 foot ceilings, and textured glass window treatments are already visible at the location. The interior is being created by the same team that designs Cartier's stores worldwide, so it seems that few expenses have been spared, and Emmanuel Perrin, president and CEO of Cartier International tells the Times that “it absolutely could become permanent.” That leaves us with the question of why the jewelry and watchmaker would need a second, permanent flagship sized store only 7 blocks from its original one, especially with another location over on Madison Avenue?
Location, location, location —as we have said before. While the ornate Italian Renaissance style mansion that has housed Cartier's main store for a decades is as hushed and elegant as one would expect a world class jeweler to be, it is a bit intimidating, with most passerby content to gawk at the opulent jewels in the windows without actually entering the store. By contrast, competitor Tiffany & Co.'s marble showplace at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue has remained a popular tourist destination, and with another, more modern feeling store just steps from FAO Schwarz and the Apple Store, which are two of the most visited retail establishments in the city, Cartier will be well positioned to capture a customer who may not have been comfortable wandering into the main flagship. Of course, the Times notes that Cartier's parent company Richemont could also convert the space for another of its luxury brands which include Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget and Montblanc, but it looks likely that New York will wind up with two Cartier flagships by the time they are finished.