The lifestyle brand has pulled out all the stops with its impressive and quirky all-American flagship to go head to head with tough competition on Fifth Avenue.
Tommy Hilfiger had wanted to open a global flagship store “for a long time”, but the location had to be just right. So when the opportunity arose to open on New York’s Fifth Avenue, the lifestyle brand’s eponymous owner grabbed it. “We’re on one of the most iconic streets in the world now,” he says. “The footfall is international, and we’re an international brand with American heritage.”
The store, which opened in mid September to coincide with New York Fashion Week, is an impressive and imposing four-storey space covering 22,000 sq ft (of which 11,555 sq ft is selling space). The brand’s neighbours, including US lifestyle giant Gap, denim brand Diesel and luxury fashion houses Gucci and Bottega Veneta, all vie for attention with eye-catching window displays and even in-store entertainment (Diesel has its own DJ). And Tommy Hilfiger also pulls out all the stops, with quirky merchandising techniques, exclusive product and second-to-none customer service.
While the company won’t divulge how much was spent on the store, chief executive Daniel Grieder admits the brand “invested a lot” into it.
“But we would do it all over again,” he says. “It’s an investment for the brand’s future.”
He hopes it will also be the business’s biggest store in terms of sales.
“We want it to make lots of money,” Hilfiger adds. “Lots.”
Key looks and merchandise mix
As a flagship store of considerable size, this shop offers the complete Tommy Hilfiger package, including the catwalk line, menswear, womenswear and denim, each on its own floor.
About 10% of the collection is unique to the Fifth Avenue store, and the brand has introduced vintage pieces from other labels for the first time. Original Levi’s denim shirts sell for $325 (£199) and a navy Yves Saint Laurent skirt suit with a chunky zip lined with shiny beads retails at $895 (£546), and vintage styles mingle with the Tommy Hilfiger collections, of which standout pieces include cocktail dresses and outerwear in the autumn 09 womenswear catwalk line.
The women’s sport line on the third floor mixes casual polo shirts and ruffled check shirts with smarter pieces including a camel trench coat for $228 (£140), while the men’s sport line serves up cashmere jumpers, collegiate-inspired jackets and hoodies and a rainbow of shirts and V-neck jumpers.
In the basement, the look is much more rock ’n’ roll, catering for a younger customer. The entire back wall is lined with shelves of jeans in varying styles for about $150 (£93). A jersey tea dress priced at $85 (£52) in womenswear also stands out.
Product is well displayed, with a good balance of rails, free-standing fixtures and mannequins, while clever techniques like the lining up of jumpers and shirts to look like books on a shelf adds a quirky element.
The store also uses its fixtures and decor to draw out the product, with pink rugs used to complement pink dresses and skirts, and a cream carpet and three-tiered wooden table highlighting the camel jackets and dresses.
No-one does service like the Americans, and this store is no exception. Staff are friendly and attentive – greeting and introducing themselves to customers on a first-name basis – but never intimidating or in your face.
They instantly know where to locate a particular product (one customer was trying to describe a specific jacket she had seen in another store) and offer suitable alternatives.
The store itself was busy, but there were plenty of staff on hand, who also ensured that rails and table displays were perfectly neat.
Whether the attentiveness was down to it being opening week and the presence of Tommy Hilfiger himself in the store we won’t yet know, but the staff seemed genuinely happy to help.
Whether or not the product is for you, there is no denying the strength of this store’s appeal from a design perspective. The building’s neoclassical facade has been restored to its original Indiana limestone, and a white spiral staircase – arguably the most striking feature – gives continuous views over Fifth Avenue from the floor-to-ceiling glass frontage.
Elsewhere, a huge Tommy Hilfiger logo made up of vintage television sets, typewriters and radios hangs imposingly on the wall between the ground floor and mezzanine, while quirky details such as lipstick marks on mirrors,
glass vases filled with pink Smarties and sculptures of former US presidents nod to Ted Baker and Paul Smith’s quirky retail concepts.
Spread over four floors, you could be here a while, so the store has dedicated sizeable space on each floor for customers who wish to take a break from their shopping, inviting them to sit down on soft leather armchairs and read from a selection of art books and magazines scattered on coffee tables.
Each category also has its own distinct decor, with menswear featuring a darker colour palette in the form of navy blue walls with heavy, wooden framed mirrors and chocolate brown sofas. The women’s sport line floor is much cleaner, with white walls and fixtures, while on the women’s catwalk floor the shiny black walls and thick rugs add a more luxe feel.
Would I buy?
The combination of location – a prime retail and tourist spot – with the brand’s market positioning – slightly below
the luxury fashion houses on price – means Tommy Hilfiger is sitting prettier than most in the fashion sector.
The huge product and price ranges within the collections also mean the brand can cater for a broad range of customers; $78 (just under £50) is good value for a cashmere jumper and a $895 (£543) heavily embellished leopard-print dress will keep New York’s die-hard fashionistas happy.
This is an expensive shopfit in a high rent site, which has opened during a recession. But it is an impressive store that will draw in both tourists and resident New Yorkers, at least in the early stages for the latter before the novelty wears off. But strong product and a varied price hierarchy should keep customers coming back for more.
681 Fifth Avenue, New York
Size 22,000 sq ft Selling space 11,555 sq ft across four floors and a mezzanine level
Product Split 50/50 between men’s and womenswear.
Accessories and footwear also feature
Number of global stores 900-plus
Company established 1985