Revamped Richards store puts more emphasis on activewear for men and women – WWD
GREENWICH, Connecticut. — The Mitchells know how to show their gratitude.
On Tuesday evening, the family behind Mitchells, Richards, Marios and Wilkes Bashford joined fellow members of the prestigious Forum Group of independent luxury retailers in thanking their salespeople for helping them through the darkest days of the pandemic.
The event, which included cocktails and a seated dinner for about 100 people, also served as the official unveiling of the renovated Richards store on Greenwich Avenue in this uptown New York tony town.
The mood was decidedly upbeat as Forum Group members, who had been meeting virtually for more than two years, were finally able to reconnect in person. The Group – which includes top stores such as Andrisen Morton in Denver; Rubenstein in New Orleans; Malouf in Lubbock, Texas; Kilgore Trout in Cleveland; Stanley Korshak in Dallas; Oak Hall in Memphis, and others – all marveled at the strength with which business has rebounded in recent months. Luxury sportswear was the star, but tailored clothing and sports coats also saw a significant increase, they said, as shoppers – new and old – showed up in droves to refresh their wardrobe for a return to work and to celebrate at rescheduled events.
This has also been the case for Mitchells stores, according to Co-General Manager Bob Mitchell. The Richards store facelift reflects this new reality.
Mitchell said the renovation of the two-level, 27,000-square-foot Richards began before COVID-19 hit and is expected to take about a year, with the store being worked on in phases so it can stay open.
But once the health crisis caused all retail stores to close, work stopped and didn’t resume until February 2021, he said. Then, issues with the supply chain and material shortages took their toll and caused the process to take twice as long as expected. The renovation was finally completed a few weeks ago.
While the mix of vendors remains the same, Mitchell said it was the store’s aesthetic that was significantly improved. “We’ve completely redone and marketed the store more by lifestyle and by brand, whether or not that includes a standalone store,” he said.
The Mitchells bought Richards in 1995 when it was a men’s-only store in an 8,000 square foot space across the street on Greenwich Avenue. They moved into the current location in 2000 when they added womenswear, which along with jewelry now accounts for half of the store’s volume, Bob Mitchell said. Across the Mitchells company, men make up 40% of sales, women 35% and jewelry 25%.
At Richards, the first floor continues to be dedicated to men, but the design is much more open, bright and modern, he said. “We pumped the light everywhere,” he said. This includes stores for the company’s major designer brands, all of which have also been updated. There are refurbished boutiques for Zegna, Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli and Tom Ford.
Behind Zegna is a room devoted to what Mitchell called “ultra luxury” brands – Kiton, Isaia, Brioni and others – which have long been known for their bespoke clothing, but have since grown successfully in luxury sportswear. And the store mixes the two categories seamlessly.
Beyond this is the smaller bespoke clothing department which was previously located front and center at the Greenwich Avenue entrance but was relocated during the redesign. Top brands here include Canali, Samuelsohn, Munro and others. Like the other stores, this one eschewed the dark wood design of the past for a cleaner, brighter, whiter layout that “shows off clothes better,” Mitchell said.
“We’re seeing big increases over 2019, even in tailored clothing,” Mitchell said, adding “sport coats are stronger than ever” and evening wear in bright blues and grays, as well as tuxedos and formal accessories, have all been “phenomenal”. .”
The furniture area has been reduced to make more room for sportswear and although not yet at its peak years ago, business in these categories is improving as men attend more of events.
There is a large, comfortable fitting area with a bar and a TV where two fitters work with customers on weekends. And there is a central cashier as well as a place where customers can sit down and have a coffee, a drink or a cookie.
Inside the back door, which opens into Richards’ car park – the store is the only one on Greenwich Avenue to have a dedicated car park with 60 spaces available for customers – is the area of casual sportswear. Brands include Faherty, Peter Millar, Frame, Rhone, Moncler, Pescarolo, Sease, Fradi, Fedeli and others.
“We thought that when bespoke clothing resumed, sportswear sales would drop, but sportswear continues to show massive increases,” he said.
Ditto for the shoes, which were “significantly widened” during the renovation and dominate the space on one side of the floor, Mitchell said. Major brands include Bontoni, Santoni, Tod’s, Loro Piana, Cucinelli and Zegna and he said while sneakers and casual shoes are immensely popular, dress shoes have also seen a surge in interest.
The Tom Ford and Cucinelli stores were upgraded to the latest iterations of these brands during the refurbishment.
Although the floor is exclusively devoted to men’s clothing, it includes the presentation of women’s jewelry. “It has been our most consistent growth driver during COVID[-19]”, said Mitchell. “And it continues.” He said the store is seeing an increase in designer jewelry brands as well as huge demand for diamonds and colored stones.
Guests ascending the sweeping central staircase to the women’s department on the second floor will also find a brighter, more modern layout.
Cucinelli, who is Richards’ top women’s salesman, has been moved up the stairs and there is outdoor patio space at the back of the store. There are designated areas for other major brands such as Loro Piana, Akris and Carolina Herrera, as well as an advanced area including The Row, Saint Laurent and Moncler. There is also a VIP room tucked away in the back corner.
Right now, Richards is offering a pop-up shack shop with colorful swimwear, kaftans and other summer merchandise from Zimmermann, Veronica Beard and other brands.
The checkout envelope has also been moved to make more room for shoes and bags, which Mitchell called “a big growth area for us. We doubled the square footage and it turns out to be a winner. Bottega Veneta, YSL, Valentino and Loewe are among the top brands in bags, while in shoes, Manolo Blahnik, Gianvito Rossi and Valentino were top sellers along with Cucinelli and Loro Piana, which Mitchell says “shows the power of these brands outside the world of clothing.
The women’s department was renovated in 2010, Mitchell said, but the men’s department hasn’t really been touched since it opened more than two decades ago. He said much of the original design, such as the windows and the staircase, was retained.
In addition to retail space and outdoor parking, there are 100 underground parking spaces and a 6,000 square foot basement where additional stock is stored.
While Richards may have been the focus this week, Mitchell said the company is “getting incredible growth across all stores” right now. “Over the rolling 12 months, we are seeing substantial double-digit growth over 2019, even in Seattle and Portland. There is definitely pent-up demand.
Mitchells Stores operates its flagship unit, Mitchells in Westport, Connecticut, and another in Huntington, New York, as well as Wilkes Bashford stores in downtown San Francisco and Palo Alto, California, Marios stores in Seattle and Portland and a Marios 3.10 in Tigard, Oregon.
The company was founded by Ed and Norma Mitchell in 1958 as a men’s store in a former plumbing supply store in Westport. Over the years, the company continued to expand its reach – and broaden its assortment – as second and third generations entered the business. Richards was the family’s first acquisition, followed by Marshs in Huntington (which was renamed Mitchells) in 2005, Wilkes Bashford in 2009 and Marios in 2015.
Mitchell said that while the family is often approached to rescue other specialty retailers who either don’t have a succession plan or are looking for more professional management, he doesn’t expect the company to add any extra money. other stores to be stabled in the near future.
“We focus on the stores that we have,” he said. “It’s a period of growth like no other, but how long will it last is the question. We believe that if the economy can calm down, we will continue to experience strong growth.
Massimo Caronna, President and CEO of Brunello Cucinelli North America, said the success of the Mitchells personifies the new world of retail. “We don’t call them stores anymore, we call them drop-in centers,” he said. “People today are looking for a difficult experience to achieve online. Post-COVID[-19], they want to feel unique and special and that’s why Mitchells does so well. When you go to their stores, you feel at home. They offer a wonderful combination of products and people, and they inspire me and Brunello to think outside the box. They give us their opinion and it’s our job to listen.