A new department store is a high-stakes, high-rewards move.
It is certainly an unusual time to be a department store. While names as storied as Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney have struggled since the pandemic, smaller ones like Century 21 are coming back from the dead while still others are bravely forging ahead and taking on new markets.
One such brand is Printemps, a luxury department store chain from France. The chain competes with Galeries Lafayette — its main store is located on the same stretch of Boulevard Haussmann in Paris and also has a popular rooftop terrace overlooking the Opera House and the fashionable ninth district.
On Wednesday, Printemps leadership announced that it has set its sights on the American market and plans to open a store in New York City.
Located at one One Wall Street in New York’s Financial District, the flagship U.S. location will take up two stories and over 54,000 square feet of space. If all goes according to plan, it should open by spring 2024.
Printemps Has Been Around Since 1865
While Printemps (the word for “spring” in French) has been around since 1865 and is a well-known name among the French, it is not as synonymous with “French fashion” as many other brands in North America.
The American store, Printemps Groupe CEO Jean-Marc Bellaiche said, is going to be key to changing that perception and beginning what the company hopes will be a larger global expansion.
There are currently 20 Printemps stores, four affiliates and one outlet across France. The Financial District location is likely a trial run that will test how a famous French “grand magasin” will work with an American luxury shopper.
“The U.S. is essential in our international development strategy and opening in New York offers high visibility and growth potential,” Bellaiche said in a statement. “We think we can bring something unique, both to its engaged local consumer base and the strong tourist flows the city welcomes.”
Laura Lendrum, who previously served as president of North American markets for Saint Laurent, Gucci and Ralph Lauren, has been tapped to be the first CEO of Printemps Americas.
Can Printemps Do What Galeries Lafayette Couldn’t?
The idea of a storied French department store testing its luck with American shoppers is hardly new. Back in 1991, Galeries Lafayette tried to open its first American store by Trump Tower on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue.
The polarizing and often negative connotations with Trump would not come until more than two decades later but the French fashion house still closed its doors by 1994 after failing to bring in the sales to justify the high cost of land amid a plethora of other luxury shopping options on Fifth Avenue.
“It was never typically French,” Ellin Saltzman, who was then the fashion director of competitor Bergdorf Goodman, told the New York Times in 1991. “They didn’t have the terrific bargain and treasures you can find at Galeries Lafayette in Paris.”
While the following 30 years brought with them an endless list of changes, Printemps will still have to deal with the same core problem of getting customers to pick your department store over another.
Time will tell whether they choose to lean into a “French chic” image so romanticized by Americans or try something entirely different such as new pop-ups or a digital-forward strategy.
“We plan to pioneer a new format of experiential retail in this fast changing and demanding market,” Bellaiche said.