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.