May 20, 2009

News flash: Small is bigger than ever

Pop! Among luxury fashion retailers, Comme des Garçons was a trailblazer in opening pop-up shops, starting with a guerrilla store in Berlin – opened in 2004 under the conditions that the rent had to be under $1,000 a month, and the decor had to come in under $2,000 in all. The unassuming little storefront was such a success that it became a permanent fixture (above) in Berlin, and has since spawned 30 more CdG pop-ups. Now, with the economy making swanky flagships taboo, Europe's more traditional fashion houses are opening temporary stores around the world: Hermès in the Hamptons, Chanel in Moscow, and Louis Vuitton in Tokyo.

And the trend isn't limited to the high end: Big-box retailers from OfficeMax to Radio Shack and even Wal-Mart are opening up mini-concept stores that concentrate on one specific area, hoping to catch customers who don't have time to stroll the longer aisles and even longer check-out lines of their larger stores. Banana Republic is getting in on the action, too, with a dedicated accessories store that opened Friday in San Francisco. Designed with "an urban town house-art gallery motif," the boutique is luxe, though its prices are not: 80% of the merchandise is priced under $100.

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