French Department Store Printemps to Open in New York’s One Wall Street

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PARIS French department store Printemps is once again setting its sights overseas.

After ditching plans to open its first international branch in Milan due to the coronavirus pandemic, the retailer revealed on Wednesday it will set up shop in New York City as it reboots its global expansion strategy.

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“The U.S. is essential in our international development strategy and opening in New York offers high visibility and growth potential. We think we can bring something unique, both to its engaged local consumer base and the strong tourist flows the city welcomes. It is also a strategic e-commerce market for luxury, fashion, home and beauty,” said Printemps Group chief executive officer Jean-Marc Bellaiche.

The group is still on track to open what will now be its first overseas location in Doha, Qatar, this October, making the New York branch its second. The New York store is expected to open in early 2024.

The group had already been eyeing New York as part of its long-term growth strategy. “New York is a very demanding market, but the location we had identified in New York and the permanent evolution of this fast-changing market made New York quite attractive,” Bellaiche told WWD. “Opening in the U.S. and moving to New York checks many, many boxes.”

Among those is raising brand awareness for American tourists when they come to Paris and expanding the retailer’s global e-commerce footprint, after launches in the U.K. and Germany. Bellaiche also cited the rapid growth of spending on luxury in the U.S. post-coronavirus pandemic.

“For many years, when you looked at luxury compared to the GDP of countries, or compared to the number of millionaires of countries, you see that the American market is a bit underdeveloped compared to the other markets,” he said, citing saturation in Asia and Europe. The pent-up savings and urge to spend post-COVID-19 increased luxury sales, and this trend is continuing even as restrictions have lifted and movement has returned to normal.

“Long term, we are quite optimistic about the prospect of luxury fashion, beauty and home in the U.S., so it’s an attractive market,” he added.

Former Saint Laurent, Gucci and Ralph Lauren executive Laura Lendrum is coming on board as the newly appointed CEO for Printemps America. International operations officer Olivier Schaeffer, who joined the group in July 2021, continues to oversee all international expansion.

Printemps plans to focus on omnichannel retail and “seamless” experiences to make a mark in the crowded shopping scene. “We plan to pioneer a new format of experiential retail in this fast-changing and demanding market,” Bellaiche added.

It’s not the first time a French department store has attempted to crack the American retail market. Galeries Lafayette landed in New York’s Trump Tower back in 1989, only to close its doors three years later.

The new Printemps is not arriving quietly. The department store will open a 54,365-square-foot space across two levels in the Financial District’s One Wall Street building. The Art Deco landmark has recently undergone a $30 billion overhaul to convert the former bank headquarters into a mixed-use retail and residential tower.

The famed Red Room, designated as one of the rare interior landmarks of the city, will be a unique feature of the store. The 9,000-square-foot mosaic-tiled room has itself undergone a $1 million renovation after being closed to the public since 2001.

The store aims to be highly curated with a specialized mix of brands. “The goal is not to come with a standard format, it will be very unique, probably closer to a concept store and very experiential with a lot of personalized service,” Bellaiche said.

“We are not going with arrogance, but we are going with humility and confidence that we can bring something different. It’s a relatively small store by our standards,” he added, noting that both the Paris flagship and the upcoming Doha store are substantially bigger.

Parisian interior designer Laura Gonzalez, Maison & Objet’s Designer of the Year in 2019, has been tasked with creating a Paris-meets-New York twist on the decor. She just completed the redesign of the Cartier flagship in New York, and has a bi-continental sensibility, Bellaiche said.

The design will be a mix of classic and modern, but with a series of rooms in different themes, some of which will be very futuristic. The new store will be neighbors with Tiffany and Hermès in the rapidly changing neighborhood.

It’s part of the company’s reinvention and growth plan, following a rebranding and streamlined new logo unveiled earlier this year as it tries to right the financial ship after years of losses exacerbated by COVID-19. The privately held company does not release financial reports, but Bellaiche revealed that sales in the first five months of its financial year, which begins in April, were up 50 percent over 2021, and down just 10 percent from 2019, mostly due to the loss of Chinese tourists and large guided group shopping tours.

Americans, British and South Koreans are slowly making up for that lost footfall, with the tourist spend up 40 percent over 2019 in the month of August.

He also cited double-digit growth in sales to local residents, and e-commerce. The company expects to return to full-year profitability in the 2023-24 financial year, he said.

Bellaiche said the strong numbers indicate a return of retail power. “We see that it’s a very positive message for retailers that yes, expectations have changed. The bar is much higher than before…but this doesn’t replace human contact,” he said of customer expectations of an in-person experience in competition with e-commerce. “We really believe in the power of retail. Because in a way, we’re back to offense, we’re back to our ambition.”

The group intends to open between five and 10 stores outside of France over the next decade, looking to establish “anchor” stores in key regions with each store achieving profitability.

The group had revealed expansion plans in 2019 with the intent to double sales to around $4 billion by 2030. Belliache, who took up the CEO post in 2020, said those numbers have been downscaled as retail recovers from the pandemic shutdowns.

“The goal is not to double [growth] at this stage. The goal is to get back to healthy growth,” he said. The current aim is 2 billion euros in sales within three to four years.

Printemps Group was acquired in 2015 by Divine Investments SA, the Luxembourg-based investment fund backed by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former emir of Qatar.

Printemps has 16 department stores throughout France.

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