Lord & Taylor is getting back into the designer game this fall —in New York, at least. The Canadian blog, Retail Insider reports that the store will import 'The Room', a luxury designer department from sister store Hudon's Bay Co. branches in Toronto and Vancouver, set to open on September 14. This will be in conjunction with a rollout of 'The Room' within the Hudson's Bay chain as announced by that company's president earlier this month.
Designer collections are not totally new to Lord & Taylor, but it has been a while since they have been the store's main emphasis. Longtime shoppers will remember that a few decades ago, classic American designer sportswear labels like Perry Ellis, Anne Klein and Calvin Klein were mainstays in L&T stores, along with more luxurious collections like Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta, and the store easily competed with Saks and Bloomingdale's in designer categories, There were even special "Fantasia" departments in the chain's best stores with more exclusive, fashion forward collections. It was only during the 1980s and 90s under the May Company's ownership that the store's offerings were repositioned to top out at the bridge level, and most of the designer departments were eliminated. Still, in the Fifth Avenue store, a small designer offering has always been maintained with limited selections from Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and a few other prestigious labels, even though it has been mostly ignored by customers.
The Bay's 'The Room' could add a new international dimension to the store's merchandise. In Canada, it offers a designer lineup comparable to what one would find at Bergdorf Goodman or Saks including names like Balenciaga and Azzedine Alaïa. It's unclear whether or not these European luxury designers will want to expand beyond their current distribution in New York, especially to an unproven player like L&T, but rebranding the store's high end offerings as a self contained entity could go a long way to bringing customers down to 39th and Fifth who usually travel no further south than Saks. The idea of separating exclusive designer merchandise in its own boutique is a time honored tradition for mainstream department stores. Over the years, departments like Marshall Field's 28 Shop, Dayton's and Hudson's Oval Room and John Wanamaker's Tribout attracted upscale clientele to stores they might not have been as quick to shop in otherwise with special environments and services. Of course, those stores are now defunct, but Dayton's & Field's are only gone after mergers and acquisitions turned them into Macy's branches. Lord & Taylor is currently part of a smaller organization that has been investing in an ongoing renovation and revival of the Fifth Avenue flagship.A prestigious designer collection will help burnish the store's image, but, more importantly, it will help the Lord & Taylor better prepare for the arrival of major competition in the form of Nordstrom coming in a few years.
Hudson's Bay's 'The Room' Coming to Montreal and NYC (Retail Insider)