Hermès Entering Detroit Market as Retail Count in U.S. Grows
Hermès is expanding its retail presence in the United States
The French luxury brand is set to open its first store in Detroit this week, a 5,000-square-foot boutique in the Somerset Collection mall in Troy, Michigan, about 30 miles outside of town. The Michigan store is one of several the brand has planned ahead of its big move this year: merging its two existing Madison Avenue stores into one giant flagship nearby next fall.
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“Troy is our 30th store in the US and we continue to see enormous potential,” said Robert Chavez, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hermès USA. He said Hermès is likely to be “one of the country’s least popular luxury brands,” and to correct this, the company plans to “continue its geographic expansion.”
Michigan is only the 15th state to have a Hermès store, which Chavez jokes: “Only 35 to go.”
The Somerset Collection store is the second Hermès has opened in a Forbes Company Center after the Mall at Millenia in Orlando, Florida, with a total of 3,500 square feet. Chavez said Hermès is impressed with how the high-end developer creates and maintains its centers and offers a “total luxury” experience.
The store was designed by RDAI, a Parisian architecture firm, and blends Hermès’ French heritage with elements that showcase Michigan’s landscapes. The facade consists, for example, of polished blue-gray St. Clair stone, which is modeled on a chevron pattern and simulates the structure of a spring. The heart of the interior is made up of three granite monoliths and a wooden lattice on which Hermès’ silk collections are displayed. A number of niches around the room are dedicated to different product offerings: For example, enamel and leather bracelets from the accessories collection are combined with pieces from the women’s and men’s silk range. On the right you can see Hermès perfumes and beauty products, a new department with the make-up line, including limited editions. There is also a rider area as well as collections for the home in shades of blue and brown. The center of the store is made up of leather goods, which are defined by brown and gray stone walls.
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Throughout the boutique there are American oak floors and bespoke carpets that are reminiscent of the rings of a tree trunk in ocher, brown and cool blue tones and connect the leather department with watches and jewelry. Flowered fabrics and wooden wall coverings are used for the clothing and shoe collections for women and men, including Grecques shaped glass spheres, which were specially designed for Hermès in 1925 and are also used in the VIP suite.
Chavez said the store will have a soft opening today but won’t hold an official opening because of the pandemic. Instead, the team is trying to schedule individual appointments with customers until the restrictions on indoor retailing are completely lifted, he said.
In September, he said if hopefully the pandemic continues to subside, the store will host an exhibition titled “Hermès in the Making” which “will allow the local market to experience the quality, craftsmanship and detail”, that make up the brand brand, said Chavez.
A bright spot of the pandemic is to experience how much Hermès customers have used the opportunity to make personal shopping appointments. “Our customers love and appreciate the personal service and undivided attention they receive,” he said, adding that it also gives staff the opportunity to “curate” an assortment for them before they arrive. Chavez said customers have “greatly appreciated” this service all last year as the company’s stores have been forced to close or open with limited hours.
For this reason, Hermès will in future experiment with a “hybrid” approach in its branches, for example shopping on two days by appointment and offering public shopping on four days. “But we make private appointments every day if the customer so wishes,” he said.
In addition to Troy, Chavez said, Hermès plans to open a store in the Aventura Mall in Florida in September, the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, NJ, in mid-September when the luxury wing debuts, and the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California , End of the year. The South Coast Plaza store is a renovation and expansion of an existing unit, he said, a move that will increase the store’s size from 7,000 square feet to more than 11,000 square feet in a former Tiffany location. “Our business there has been very productive and successful,” he said, adding that taking over this location will give Hermès its own outside entrance.
Overall, Chavez said Hermès was “very optimistic” about its retail stores. Although the brand had a small wholesale business a few years ago, it was decided to leave this distribution channel to focus on its own retail business. The only products that continue to be wholesale are fragrances, dishes and watches, he said. “But there are no other categories in wholesale.”
Hermès’ retail rollout is paying off and will continue to be a focus in the future, he said. “Our business is very strong this year,” said Chavez. Even at the height of the pandemic, “we never changed our strategy. We have always been very consistent – we don’t let anything throw us off track. “
After 2021, Chavez said Hermès will continue its “ambitious” retail expansion, adding stores in new markets across the country. This includes a second store in Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; Phoenix and a third store in Naples, Florida market in another Forbes Company mall, Shops at Waterside. Also on his shortlist is Nashville and second stores in larger, existing markets.
“Then our major project will be the move to Madison Avenue in September 2022,” he said. Reportedly, the company signed a lease on a five-story building at 706 Madison Avenue in 2019 and will open a flagship that will bring together both its men’s and women’s stores, which are currently across from each other on the shopping street.
Chavez said that in his 40 years in the retail business, he has “never seen anything” like the rapid return of customers to shopping in the past few months. When business slowed in the past, it was due to either a recession or a major economic boost, and the return has been gradual. But this time when people could safely leave their homes and shop again, Hermès had “a lot of catching up to do,” he said.
The opening of stores outside the US is also planned, with a new unit in Shenzhen and expansions in Milan and Beijing. In Paris, after a year of renovation, the company has just reopened its flagship on Rue de Sevres. Hermès operates a total of 306 branches worldwide.
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