Gucci’s earned a reputation as an innovator among fashion brands – but its latest move is opening a store in a New Jersey megamall.
On Tuesday, American Dream announced that Gucci is expanding its footprint at the East Rutherford-based shopping-slash-entertainment center from a shop-in-shop within Saks Fifth Avenue to a 10,000-square-foot standalone store encompassing two stories. The store will be part of American Dream’s luxury-focused wing dubbed The Avenue that opened in mid-September. The Avenue currently houses 13 other stores, counting the Louis Vuitton shop-in-shop at Saks, as well as the Italian restaurant Carpaccio. Also on Tuesday, American Dream revealed that another Kering brand, Saint Laurent, will soon be expanding its second-floor store in The Avenue to the first floor, to take up a total of 7,000 square feet.
The Avenue has been a slow build riddled with obstacles, true to form for American Dream. The existing Saks Fifth Avenue store was always meant to be The Avenue’s “anchor,” Ken Downing, then chief creative officer of American Dream parent company Triple Five Group, said in July. But, before declaring bankruptcy and announcing plans to close all of its stores, Barneys was planned to be positioned “at the front of The Avenue,” in a 50,000-square-foot space directly across from Tiffany & Co., he said. And despite May 2019 press releases naming Moncler and Watches of Switzerland among retailers set to open in The Avenue, they never did. Neither did Zadig & Voltaire, which Downing name-dropped in July.
Meanwhile, Downing, who was spearheading the project, recently left Triple Five Group to head up Hearst’s new e-commerce marketplace, dubbed The Tower. His appointment was announced in mid-December.
Finally, The Avenue’s current 14-store count is well shy of the property’s original goal. “The Avenue is opening with a cluster of about 20-plus stores,” Downing said in July. “But over the course of the next six months to a year or a year and a half, more stores will be opening.”
Indeed, new The Avenue stores have been revealed on a regular basis, with Anne Fontaine announced in October and Alexander Wang in November.
American Dream declined to comment on Gucci’s and Saint Laurent’s lease terms and on remaining store vacancies within The Avenue. But in July, Downing said that all of The Avenue tenants sign long-term leases, with the exception of its Dream Drop pop-up tenants.
In Kering’s most recent earnings report, for the third quarter of 2021, announced in October, Kering CFO Jean-Marc Duplaix stressed the total company’s shift away from the wholesale channel, in favor of focusing on owned stores, including e-commerce. For the quarter, Gucci reported around $2.5 billion in revenue, an increase of 3.8% year-over-year. Among the brand’s forward moves in 2021 were launching the Gucci Garden Roblox experience in May and the experimental online store Gucci Vault in September. The site sells styles by emerging designers, in addition to Gucci.
An American Dream representative confirmed that the company is heavily marketing The Avenue to tourists. And they said the mall’s foot traffic is currently strong, particularly in The Avenue. It’s using signage within parking structures, as well as digital signage throughout the mall, to direct mall shoppers to the luxury wing and its stores.
Still not yet complete, the American Dream project has been in the works for 19 years. In March of 2021, owner Triple Five Group defaulted on its $3 billion American Dream loan, and was forced to turn over 49% of its stake in Mall of America and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada to its financial lenders. Triple Five Group first sealed the deal to take over the development in 2011. At the time, the center, which had been in the works since 2003, was 85% complete and at a standstill. The company planned the grand opening for March 2020, when the pandemic hit the states. Along with a range of stores, a DreamWorks Water Park and a Big Snow indoor ski resort are among its attractions.