LEGO To Open Its Doors Tomorrow

It has taken a while, but the building formerly know as the International Toy Center will finally have an actual toy store in it. The LEGO Store that has been under construction for much of this year is reported to be preparing for a soft opening tomorrow at 11 AM at 200 Fifth Avenue. When The Shophound peeked inside last week (pictured above), it seemed clear that an opening was not too far off. While there has been a small Lego store in Rockefeller Center for several years, this location is designed to be more of a flagship, and the 7,703 square foot store will offer a fuller range of Lego products as well as the popular Pick-A-Brick feature that lets shoppers purchase that exact piece they need. Weary grown-ups will also have a lounge to relax in while their younger charges run rampant through the store. As with every Lego store, the decor will consist mostly of great big Lego sculptures which you can see being assembled in the picture above, including interpretations of many famous New York City sights with the company mascot, Brickley the Dragon, snaking his way around the displays. The store is flanked by Marimekko's flagship and Eataly's two entrances, making this corner one of the city's tastiest and most colorful. A more official Grand Opening celebration will take place in a couple of weeks over Columbus Day weekend, so prepare for some special events and celebrations at the corner where 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue and Broadway intersect.

Lego’s Flagship Store to Soft Open This Week (Commercial Observer)


The Paragon Warehouse Sale
Is The Antidote To Fashion Week

Is Fashion Week too glamorous for you?
Are you feeling like you want to rummage through some bins for a bargain sneaker?
Well, then, The Paragon Warehouse Sale is for you. The Shophound stopped by the sale yesterday, and as you can see from the photo above, it was a big hot messy cluster∫#¢&. 

You won't find the cool sneakers in the piles arranged by size which take up most of the sale space, but you might find the perfect pair for the gym, soccer pitch or wrestling mat that you have been looking for. Paragon is after all a fairly serious sports outfitter, so the products available can be rather specialized. We also saw a moderate selection of tennis rackets, fishing rods, backpacks and other, various paraphernalia that you may or may not be excited about finding at a discount. Swimwear and other apparel was abundant in some cases, but overall, pretty random (read: nothing we wanted in our size). Our only real advice is to bring patience, sharp elbows and a finely honed sixth sense.
Good luck sports fans!

Paragon Sports Warehouse Sale through September 23 at 867 Broadway, entrance on 18th St., Flatiron District


LEGO To Bring A Flagship
To The Toy Center

For nearly 75 Years, the immense building at 200 Fifth Avenue was well known as the International Toy Center, one of several buildings around the intersections of Fifth Avenue, Broadway and 23rd Street that formed a Toy District of sorts including the headquarters of most well known toy and game companies. When the central building was repositioned as a prestige office building in 2009, the toy companies that hadn't already decamped for other neighborhoods dispersed, and now, the building is better known as the home of Italian cuisine superstore Eataly and a Marimekko boutique, but a reminder of the building's true heritage is set to appear soon. This Summer, Lego will open a major flagship in the building's corner store space (pictured above). Though there is a smallish Lego store just off Rockefeller Center's Channel Gardens, this unit will encompass 3,535 square feet for retail plus another 481square feet for a reading and play space. Now the beloved toy brand will have enough room to present a much broader assortment from its vast product range along with, in all likelihood, a few of its signature, oversized fantasy and architectural constructions. A soft opening is planned for mid-July, with an entire weekend in August set aside for a Grand Opening celebration that's bound to be be a must-attend event for kids all over the city. From the looks of a peek inside earlier today, Lego has its work cut out for it for the next couple of months, but that should give you plenty of time to plan a trip there later this Summer with your favorite Lego-loving kid (or grownup)

Lego's Flagship Store to Launch in Flatiron in July (DNAinfo)


Notes On The Gant Warehouse Sale

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There was a perfectly manageable number of people waiting at 260 Fifth Avenue to get into the Gant Warehouse Sale at 9 AM today, especially considering that it was a once again frigid February morning. This is the second big Gant sale this season, and the first time the brand has staged a post-season warehouse sale. If you are a non sample size Gant fan, this is the sale you have been waiting for. There is a fairly even distribution of the Gant, Gant Rugger and Gant by Michael Bastian labels, and, for now, sizes range from XS to XXL —though there appeared to be more selection in the smaller sizes. It appears that the merchandise is mostly from the Fall 2013 collections, and much of it looks like it came from the Gant and Gant Rugger stores which have ended their clearance sales. Unlike the Gant sample sales we are accustomed to, the prices are not by category, but a simple 70% off the retail price tags, so bring a calculator. This may make the prices come in just a bit higher than at the sample sales of past seasons, but, for the most part, it's still a great value (that means that, for example, the signature Gant by Michael Bastian skinny cargo pants are $67.50 down from $225). The set-up is also more open, with only single level racks arranged by size (as seen in the gallery above). There was a substantial shoe table, and a fairly small women's section in the back. 

The sale lasts through Sunday, so we expect that there will have to be some replenishment throughout the week. Will there be further reductions? Nobody was promising anything, but we would be surprised if it didn't go to 75% or maybe 80% before the end of the weekend if you want to wait it out. Overall, for those who were disappointed by the limited selection at last Fall's Sample Sale, it's worth stopping by, especially if there are any special items you have had your eye on.

See our SALE ROLL at left for more details and other breaking sale listings.


Sales See A Spark Of Life Next Week
With Diptyque & Gant's Warehouse Sale

Image004It has been a quiet time in the Sample Sale Cycle around the city, with a few events here and there, but not the kind of concentrated activity we had been seeing previously. That's about to change starting today, and ramping up next week with a couple of tried and true crowd pleasers. PATRIK ERVELL's seasonal sale started today in SoHo with 90% savings on his Fall collections, and RALPH LAUREN's highly anticipated Home Collection sale also kicked off. Both will keep shoppers busy over the weekend, but it's Monday when local favorite GANT makes an unusual Winter appearance with its first Warehouse Sale. Those of us who have been accustomed to Gant's abundant (and cheap) sample sales were a bit disappointed last Fall when the regular sale was reduced in size and mostly limited to actual samples. It was a bit of a bummer for those non-sample sized shoppers, but our friends at Gant are making up for it starting next Monday with their first ever Warehouse Sale that moves it back to the big room  at 260 Fifth Avenue for a solid week. They are promising 70% off the most recent Fall collections from the regular collection, Gant Rugger and Gant by Michael Bastian collections including the MB leather jacket pictured here which is being reduced from $1250 to $375. It look like a great opportunity to stock up on Bastian's signature skinny cargo pants (also pictured) especially since next Fall will bring his final Gant collaboration collection.

Wait until Wednesday, and you will get a chance to wait in a famously long line to get into the DIPTYQUE Sale at 225 Fifth. There is an ever increasing number of New Yorkers who will go to all kinds of lengths for a discount on scented candles and other fragrance items from the exclusive brand, so plan carefully and leave a lot of waiting time in your schedule.

See details for all these sales and anything else that pops up in our SALE ROLL at left.


Union Square Pampering Edition

13zCRITICAL2-superJumboIn today's Thursday Styles, our Critical Shopper Alexandra Jacobs visits not an actual store, but the new Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa on Union Square. Though there was once a time when the Arden spas also included substantial designer apparel boutiques, it has been decades since you could shop for clothes behind the signature Red Doors that are still part of the famous cosmetics brand's logo. Instead, our shopper goes for the Spa treatments, and shows that it's hard to find a whole lot to say about them beyond "That felt good" or "That tickled".

Cradled by warm blankets, my flesh was pressed and rolled until it was as tender as chicken under brick. A final touch: Ms. Streete, like Dumbo’s mother, pulled my ears straight back to my head.
“Ahrrrrrrrrrgh,” I murmured gratefully.

Not quite as fascinating as a store full of actual stuff you can buy, for sure, but considering the endless siege of punishing weather New York City has seen over the past few months, buying clothes seem somehow beside the point —for now anyway. If there was ever a time to go somewhere to get waited upon hand and foot, this Winter has been it.

Critical Shopper: A Clubhouse for Women of Worry By Alexandra Jacobs (NYTimes)
The Red Door 200 Park Avenue Sounth at 17th Street, Union Square


Banana Republic To Take Over Barnes & Noble's Other Flatiron Store

Give Gap Inc. some credit for knowing a good opportunity when it sees one. Its Banana Republic division is set to take over the 28,000 square foot space at 105 Fifth Avenue that Barnes & Noble's recently closed textbook store vacated. The chain already has two separate men's & women's flagship stores nearby, and this fall they will be re-combined into a mega-flagship in the new, three-level space. The Real Deal reports that the deal was signed yesterday afternoon, and also notes that within a few blocks of the stretch of Fifth Avenue between 14th and 23rd Streets, Gap Inc has clustered major stores for all of its divisions including a recently renovated, sprawling Gap store, the Banana flagships, a recently opened Athleta unit and an Intermix location, which already existed there before Gap Inc. bought the contemporary chain. 

Of course, that not unusual for the neighborhood. J.Crew also has one of its biggest flagships there as well as a Madewell unit, and the corridor has become something of a chain store district featuring H&M, Zara, American Apparel, Express, Victoria's Secret, A|X, Anthropologie, Coach, Kate Spade and Club Monaco to name a few. What distinguishes it from Broadway below Houston Street where shoppers find most of the same stores, is that this particular neighborhood seems to cater more to local New York shoppers rather than the throngs of slack-jawed tourists that descend upon SoHo.

Combining its stores on Lower Fifth Avenue will be a smart move for Banana Republic, giving it a much stronger presentation in such a competitive market, but the question is, what will Gap Inc do with the vacant stores assuming it still controls the leases? They can always be sublet, but perhaps this might be a good time to move Intermix to a larger location and use the current store for the menswear expansion the company has been hinting at? Maybe it's time for a bigger GapKids flagship? So many options.

Banana Republic inks mega Flatiron lease (The Real Deal)


New Year's Resolution Edition


It looks like the Critical Shopper is adopting a "compare and contrast" format, as this week's Thursday Styles brings Alexandra Jacobs's thoughts on the obvious New Year's conern: working out. Our shopper kills the proverbial two birds with one stone at the latest branch of Gap's women's activewear chain Athleta and the recently arrived British workout wear shop Sweaty Betty in SoHo with the thinking that they are well positioned to step in where the dominant but slightly battered Lululemon has misstepped.

Starting with Sweaty Betty, a store name that conjures up all sorts of clammy, exceedingly moist images, she finds that the clever fashion elements ultimately subvert the performance aspects of the merchandise, and the campy décor makes the gym seem like more of a joke: "A cubby was stacked with plastic-weight running bottles recalling Dr. Leonard Schwartz’s Heavyhands. Headbands, legwarmers and leotards abounded. All that was missing was a bathhouse of well-oiled Olivia Newton-John backup dancers." Well, that actually might get all kinds of people enthused for a workout.

On to the more serious-minded Athleta, which clearly has that big Canadian competitor in its commercial cross-hairs. "Compared with the retro and rather hyper Sweaty Betty, Athleta is spa-like, with blond-wood floors, rattan chairs, flattering sconces and generous cuts," she tells us, and yet somehow we aren't convinced that Jacobs has been totally enchanted by either store. It sounds like Lululemon doesn't need to watch its back just yet.

Critical Shopper Refining the Fitness Gear Trend By Alexandra Jacobs (NYTimes)
Sweaty Betty 77 Mercer Street between Spring & Broome Streets, SoHo
Athleta 126 Fifth Avenue at 18th Street, Flatiron District


J.Crew Splits Up Its Sample Sales

It's official.
Holding multiple sample sales is the thing to do. The latest sale to add to the sprawl is J.Crew, although it won't really mean a trek all over town for anyone. The popular chain has taken the wise step separating its men's merchandise out of the sample sale that starts today, and moving it a block downtown, so women can go to the usual venue at 260 Fifth Avenue for their collections along with Madewell and Crewcuts, while men will be able to avoid the frenzy at 225 Fifth Avenue. Otherwise, things seem very much as expected at both sales. It must be noted for novices that J.Crew's sale is a genuine Sample Sale of the old-school style meaning that it consists of mostly actual samples of varying condition, quality and season. Occasionally, one will find stock pieces mixed in here and there, but the range of sizes is generally limited (read smaller), so bear that in mind when deciding to get in a long line today —and, if tradition holds, there will be a long line. Separating the sales may mitigate that obstacle, however, though the men's sale comes with a "while supplies last" caveat, meaning that it may not have enough merchandise to last through the weekend for those of you who may be waiting for final re-reductions.

We give you a detailed list of what we saw at the sales, because who knows what is going to be available by the time you get there today? Suffice it to say that it is the usual random mix including all categories, so it's a perfect sale for those who like to rummage around for a hidden gem. Prices are all as marked, rather than going by a categorical list, but most things seemed consistent and reduced substantially from their retail tickets. There were several $15 bins full of bargain accessories at the women's sale, and the actual savings item to item can vary wildly. For example, most men's knits were $15, which meant that basic t-shirts were less of a bargain than a heavy gauge knit that might have retailed closer to $100. By the same token, cashmere sweaters seemed to be consistently marked at $90, a good price for a basic v-neck pullover, but a true bargain for the heavy, multi-ply cardigan that surely retailed for several hundred dollars.

Anyway, this is one sale where luck can be a major factor in one's shopping success. Have a look at the gallery below for some shots of what will be available.

J.CREW Sample Sale starts today through Sunday December 8
Women's sale - 260 Fifth Avenue between 28th & 29th Streets
Men's sale - 225 Fifth Avenue between 26th & 27th Streets
See the SALE ROLL at left for hours and other details


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The Gant Sample Sale Slims Down

There was a good healthy line to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 26th Street when the Gant Sample Sale opened its doors at 10 AM this morning, which was to be expected as the brand has gained steam over the past couple of years. Some shoppers may have been a bit disappointed this season, however, as what had become an abundant overstock sale in the past couple of seasons has now reverted back to being mostly samples, and as such, has moved to s slightly smaller site at 225 Fifth Avenue. What that means is that, for starters, there is no try-on area. Last season's expansive size range is also greatly reduced, so pretty much everything is in sample sized. That used to be OK  seasons ago when the brand held the sale in its midtown showroom because, at the time, it produced a huge sample line in both sizes Medium and Large. It may be a result of Gant Rugger designer Christopher Bastin taking over creative direction for the entire brand, but now Gant appears to be producing its samples only in Medium with pants on size 32 waist. Shoppers who fall outside of that size will still find a little bit of overstock from past seasons available, but not much.
Having said all that, if you can wear a sample size, you will be in luck. The prices are about the same as last season and the offerings include good items from all three lines. As usual, the Gant by Michael Bastian current season samples are the first to go, but the good news is that the main Gant label which has tended to be a bit stodgy in the past is benefiting from Christopher Bastin's input and now looks updated and younger with a welcome absence of the many prominent logos that have marred it in recent seasons. Accessories were also a bit limited compared to recent seasons, mostly focusing on multicolored socks, lambswool scarves and a smattering of belts. Although shoes appeared on the price lists, we didn't see a pair to bought anywhere. The sale runs through the weekend, and, if tradition holds, prices will drop toward the end of the week, but since the selection is more limited, you may not want to hold out for too long. As much as this sale has always been a highlight for The Shophound, if you aren't a medium size (and not a particularly generous one, we might add, you might not want to go out of your way this season.
We feel your disappointment. Really.
Check out our gallery below for price lists and a few looks at the sale site.

GANT Sample Sale through Sunday November 10 at 225 Fifth Avenue between 25th & 26th Streets, Flatiron District
See our SALE ROLL at left for details 

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