Henri Bendel To Be Put Out Of Its Misery By January

Image: henribendel.com

After what has been decades of re-positioning and revamping, the erstwhile paragon of New York chic, Henri Bendel, will be closing its doors by the end of January. All 25 locations of the retailer will be shuttered by parent company L Brands including the Fifth Avenue flagship.
Anyone familiar with the store's most recent incarnation may wonder why it was constantly referred to as "Legendary", but up until about 10 years ago, Bendel's was still among the leading fashion retailers in New York. Its most vital period occurred from the 1960s through the 1980s when it was run by Geraldine Stutz, a luxury merchant who was something of a legend herself, responsible for introducing many a young designer to her influential customers including names like Stephen Burrows, Sonia Rykiel and Barry Kieselstein -Cord among many others. Having an in-store shop or even a dedicated counter at the original store at 10 West 57th Street was considered a coup in the industry. Stutz eventually acquired the store herself, and then sold it to The Limited in the mid-80s. Upon her retirement, Bendel's was moved to it's current, larger flagship on Fifth Avenue in the restored Coty Building, uncovering a forgotten set of Lalique glass windows that prompted the city to designate the building a landmark. Attempts by its owner to expand into a luxury chain to rival Neiman Marcus or Saks failed, as management revolved through the single-store retailer with varying results and responses from the fashion community and shoppers. Finally, in 2009, the company dropped apparel altogether to focus on beauty and accessories, a signal that its owner, now called L Brands, was ready to take another crack at mining some revenue from the brand. By 2014, the company had eliminated all other brands form its inventory, and would now focus on cosmetics and its own brand of moderately priced accessories and handbags. It seemed a far cry from the the store's rich heritage, and, it now seems to have been another ill-advised direction for the brand. It will cease to operate at the beginning of next year, leaving a lavish flagship, waiting for a tenant worthy of and rich enough for the space.

A CEO Responds:

Bendel's President Takes Umbrage
UPDATE: Or Perhaps Not?

We have been notified through official channels, that the quote below was NOT, in fact, posted by Henri Bendel CEO Ed Bucciarelli.
It is comforting to know that he is not, as the quote would suggest, a blithering idiot.
In our defense, whoever decided to impersonate Mr. Bucciarelli did so in a fairly credible way, though we have to admit that we were more than a little surprised that he would have responded to our post in such a manner. Actually, we thought maybe he was drunk or something (hey, stranger things have been known to happen.) Of course, now we are wondering exactly who would want to impersonate a retail CEO in such a defensive matter, but at this point, we should probably all just move on.
Again, our apologies to Mr. Bucciarelli for unwittingly portraying him as a total douchebag.

Someone's been busy Googling.
The Shophound has certainly expressed our share of opinions about various retailers over the past couple of years –not all of them favorable by any stretch. Sometimes we get comments, but not usually from the top.
Here is Henri Bendel Pesident and CEO Ed Bucciarelli's comment about our post regarding the chain's recently announced strategy change:

I am confident that Henri Bendel will become the new Gucci.
I have art directed the most extraordinary collection of fun items for Bendel girls to enjoy. When I created the first Juicy Couture collection, my vision was very clear and precise. The success of JC is a feather in my cap as a fashion visionary within the exciting world of American fashion.

We're not looking to start any feuds here, but if his goal is to make Henri Bendel just like Juicy Couture, then there's really nothing further to discuss. Regular readers will know just how we feel about that brand (and we always thought that Juicy Couture was created by Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, but whatever).
If his goal is making Henri Bendel the next Gucci, then we wish him the very best of luck. Nothing would please us more than to see that happen.
And we'll be watching.
Breaking: Limited Brands To Drain Every Last Bit Of Prestige From Henri Bendel


Limited Brands To Drain Every Last
Bit Of Prestige From Henri Bendel

It's true that it has been only about 20 years since Henri Bendel was a fabulous little department store at 10 West 57th Street that was pretty much the epicenter of exclusive New York chic. We'll admit that it's hard to bitch too much about something that has essentially been dead for 20 years or so, but it's still sad to see the name become ever more banal. Limited Brands, which bought the store from legendary retailer Geraldine Stutz in the late 1980s, has announced that they are turning it back into a chain (again) after a successful test of it as a beauty and accessory store in four mall locations. WWD tells us that the new chain will add six more units by the end of the year emphasizing private label goods -with more details to follow tomorrow.
Anyone who remembers the Stutz era on West 57th Street will be cringing at the use of "Bendel" and "Mall" in the same phrase right about now.
To emphasize the new reanimated zombie form of Henri Bendel, the Fifth Avenue flagship will be downsized to to two floors, and all apparel will be dropped from the store's merchandise mix.
We could go on and on detailing the store's sporadic decline under Limited's ownership, but that just just kind of makes us sound old and crotchety. Let's just say that Bendel's-in-the-mall just doesn't sound right to us.
Henri Bendel to Expand (WWD)

According to today's WWD, all the new Henri Bendel branch stores will carry only private label merchandise designed by a new in-house team, and Bendel's president Ed Bucciarelli hopes to collaborate with designers for exclusive lines. Only the Fifth Avenue store will continue to carry third-party labels. Frédérick Fekkai will remain on the fourth floor, but the fate of Chocolate Bar on the third is up in the air, as is the status of the store's Vice-President and Fashion Director Ann Watson (who is probably polishing up her resume as you read this).
Bendel's Focuses on New Strategy (WWD)

Alex K Goes Shopping: French Literature Edition At Henri Bendel

06crit1xl_1This week Alex Kuczynski returns to loony form with her visit to Fifth Avenue’s Henri Bendel in today’s Thursday Styles. She begins with a rant against shallow summer reading, as if she believes that she has been reassigned to the Book Review. Schoolmarm Kuczynski feels that we should all be reading Tolstoy on the beach, and connects her visit to Bendel’s with an obscure Émile Zola novel, part of a 20-part series. Ok, we get it! You’re not just a shallow shopping columnist. No guilty pleasures for Alex. The Shophound has no shame in admitting that we have no time for novels what with the big stack of Vanity Fairs we have to plow through, and that’s the magazine, not the Thackeray novel, not to mention all the important TV that requires our viewing. We’re only embarrassed that we haven’t yet seen “The Devil Wears Prada”, let alone read it (we’re gonna see it this afternoon, we promise).
More after the jump

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