With outlet centers continuing to outperform other retail property types in sales, more retailers have opened stores in the format. For one footwear and accessories brand, outlet stores will become its first retail distribution channel in the U.S. as it plans to open hundreds of outlet stores in the coming years.
Vince Camuto, a brand based out of Greenwich, Conn., already had a presence at U.S. department stores including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor. It also operates standalone stores in Israel, South Korea and Mexico. This year, it’s making a bolder push by opening a dozen U.S. outlet stores.
The first of these launched on Apr. 15 at Wrentham Village Premium Outlets in Wrentham, Mass. Throughout the coming months, the brand will also open stores at Premium Outlet centers in San Marcos, Texas, Tulalip, Wash. and Gilroy, Ga., as well as at a Tanger center in Riverhead, N.Y. and at Citadel Outlets in Commerce, Calif.
Over the long-term, the firm hopes to build out a national presence, with 100 to 150 outlet stores throughout the U.S., says Bob Galvin, president of The Camuto Group, the parent company of Vince Camuto.
The brand started working on its U.S. retail distribution strategy last summer, when it decided it had built up enough name equity to justify opening standalone stores. The timing coincided with the resurgence in the popularity of outlet centers, which combine an emphasis on brand awareness with value consciousness. Vince Camuto’s core customers are women aged 25 to 45, who are both fashion-conscious and focused on affordability, according to Galvin.
“I think the outlet provides a great opportunity in today’s economic environment to [bring] value to women, and that’s why to start with the outlet stores seemed logical,” he notes. “Right now, we have 12 outlet stores identified and one specialty store identified in New York City, which will hopefully open this fall.”
While Vince Camuto executives plan to eventually grow the company’s specialty store presence to about 12 locations, but for now that strategy will be limited. The brand’s first specialty store will be based inside Grand Central Station in New York City. As Vince Camuto works on launching a sportswear line by the fall, it will scout New York City for more locations on high traffic streets. Basing its specialty stores in New York will make it easier to work withpartners on new product launches, Galvin explains, though he adds the brand won’t rule out opening specialty stores in other cities in the future.
Real estate decisions
Most of the site selection and real estate negotiations for the chain has been handled by its partner, GIII Apparel Group, which manufactures and distributes apparel brands.
“GIII has a great real estate group and they bring opportunities to the management team that are combined for GII and the Camuto Group,” Galvin says. “We review the real estate proposals, but it starts with them. We do not have an in-house real estate department—they have the expertise, so there is no reason to duplicate efforts.”
It was, in fact, the landlord relationships GIII developed through its AM Retail Group division that led to some of Vince Camuto’s outlet center. AM Retail Group already operates Wilsons Leather outlet stores, so when it approached Craig Realty Group, the owner of the Citadel Outlets center near downtown Los Angeles, Craig executives felt comfortable taking on a brand new tenant.
“We have many of AM’s stores in our chain, so when they first suggested Vince Camuto to us it was a natural ‘yes,’” says Traci Stokes Markel, director of marketing with Citadel Outlets. “And once that discussions started, the deal happened very quickly,” within several months.
The Vince Camuto store at Citadel Outlets is scheduled to open its doors in mid-May. It will measure 2,981 square feet of space and will be located inside Citadel’s latest phase, in close proximity to a two-level H&M store, a Gap and a Nike store.
Most of the brand’s outlet stores will average about 3,000 square feet, will feature multi-year leases and will be positioned next to other retailers with well-known brand names, according to Galvin. The firm will try to be more flexible with the specialty stores in New York—it’s willing to take locations as small as 1,000 square feet and as large as 4,000 square feet, depending on available opportunities.
Even in the outlet stores, however, the Camuto Group plans to spend substantial amount of money on build-outs, with clean but elegant designs emphasizing the Vince Camuto brand name.
“The brand’s very high-end, very high fashion, just a great product to put into the outlet industry right now when the high end retailers are doing very well,” says Stokes Markel.