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Sweaty Betty

There’s a new high-end fashion activewear brand in town, and this one speaks with a British accent. London-based Sweaty Betty opened its first two U.S outposts last year, one in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and one in Greenwich, Conn. A third is expected to open in 2014.

With an aim “to inspire women to find empowerment through fitness,” Sweaty Betty covers all the bases, with clothing and accessories for yoga, dancing, spinning swimming, skiing, tennis and running — all under its own label. The goods are stylish and well made, featuring the latest in fabric technology. On-trend prints and quirky detailing help ratchet up the brand’s fashion quotient. Price points, on average, tend to run above lululemon athletica.

Sweaty Betty stores have an experiential bent, offering free fitness classes that can range from yoga and Pilates to dance and high-intensity training (many locations have dedicated studio spaces).

The company tailors stores to each location, sourcing props from the local area, even as it maintains its overall sporty British aesthetic. The SoHo store has an urban loft gym theme, with a focus on dance. Vintage gym equipment, authentic dance stage lighting and strong pops of color help set the mood. In a nod to the brand’s roots, the wallpaper in the fitting rooms features a graphic landscape of London, while vintage ornaments, including tea cups, flags and double decker buses, help accent the space.

 Sweaty Betty founder and creative director Tamara Hill-Norton may be the brand’s best weapon. A fitness enthusiast, she has emerged as a respected figure for women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the United Kingdom, growing Sweaty Betty from a start-up in 1998 to a $40 million business. With 36 stores in the United Kingdom, Hill-Norton said in a recent interview that her home country has a potential for 50 to 60 stores maximum. The United States, she added, is a “massive market.”
 

John Varvatos

There aren’t too many retail brands that combine old-world craftsmanship and quality tailoring with a rock ’n’ roll aesthetic. Or that can lay claim to a downtown Manhattan flagship housed in a space formerly home to one of the world’s foremost punk clubs (CBGB). John Varvatos scores on both points.

The menswear company is named after its founder, a two-time winner of the CFDA’s prestigious Menswear Designer of the Year award and a veteran of Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. He launched the brand in 2000, with a collection of tailored clothing and sportswear. It has since evolved into an entire lifestyle brand whose offerings now include eyewear; limited edition watches; skincare and fragrance; and a second line, Star USA, which has a more youthful vibe.

Most recently, John Varvatos has been growing in other ways. In February, the company opened in Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto, and in March, it unveiled its third store in Manhattan, on the tony Upper East Side. It is set to open its first store in Texas, in the Houston Galleria, in late summer/early fall. A store in Beverly Hills is also expected by year-end. Specialty store concepts, including one for footwear, are rumored.

The retail push follows a change in ownership. In 2012, Lion Capital purchased a majority stake in John Varvatos Enterprises from VF Corp., with an eye to expanding its retail footprint. (Varvatos remains chairman and creative officer.)

Kate Spade Saturday

From clicks to brick-and-mortar, Kate Spade’s sassy little offshoot, Kate Spade Saturday, is poised for big things. More youthful and casual in its overall vibe and much more affordable in its price points, Kate Spade Saturday could eventually surpass its big sis in terms of overall store count.

The fledgling brand launched in March 2013, starting with a store in Tokyo and an e-commerce site in the United States, followed by a series of pop-ups. Currently, it operates four U.S. stores, in Los Angeles, New York City, Houston and a just-opened location in Honolulu, in addition to six stores in Japan. Reports have it looking for additional locations in New York and on the West Coast.

Targeting young women in their twenties, Kate Spade Saturday has an upbeat, playful aesthetic. The merchandise selection ranges from apparel and accessories to beauty products and home decor. Fashion-wise, the selection is modern and unfussy, with lots of bright colors and minimal details.

Store interiors are bright and sunny, enhanced by light wood accents and the brand’s signature canary-yellow hue. In line with its millennial target customers, the brand is tech-savvy. (It featured eBay-powered, 24-hour shoppable touchscreen store windows in four pop-ups in Manhattan last summer.)

Spanx

One of the most high-profile shapewear brands is extending its retail reach. Since opening its first stand-alone store in late 2012, in Tysons Corner Center, McLean, Va., Spanx has opened three additional locations, most recently in International Plaza, Tampa, Fla. Coming soon are stores in Westfarms Mall, West Hartford, Conn.; North Park Center, Dallas; and The Mall at Short Hills, Short Hills, N.J. (There are also several Spanx airport stores, which are owned and operated by The Paradies Shops.)

From department stores to boutiques, Spanx products are sold in more than 12,000 retail stores in more than 50 countries around the world. Its product lineup now includes more than 200 items, ranging from its signature — and slimming — pantyhose and body-shapers to bras and swimsuits.

Spanx stores reflect the brand’s larger-than-life personality and its ethos of comfort, function, fashion and fun. The spaces are stylish and chic, accented outside and in with Spanx’s signature red hue. Lucite finishes and high-gloss lacquer are combined with warm, feminine furnishings for a high-fashion feel. Special attention is given to the fitting rooms, which are spacious and enhanced with flattering lighting.

Max Brenner

Who doesn’t love chocolate? Max Brenner certainly does — the company has created an entire culture and global portfolio around it. After launching its U.S. operations with a full-blown restaurant concept offering both sweet and savory meal options, the company is now rolling out a more casual, dessert-cafe concept, called The Chocolate Bar, that will define all future locations.

To date, the company has opened two Chocolate Bars in the United States, one in Bethesda, Md., and a just-opened 2,800-sq.-ft. space in Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus, N.J. The format is fast casual. Customers order at the counter and seat themselves, or take their order to go. The menu items range from hot chocolate and milkshakes to banana-split waffles and crepes. The space also includes a retail shop stocked with the brand’s signature chocolates.

The Chocolate Bar aims to give customers a full sensory experience, even pumping the scent of chocolate into the air. The centerpiece of the space is a long bar from which seated customers can watch the products being made. References to chocolate abound, from the rich color palette to the stylized graphics.

Starting in 2015, Max Brenner is looking to open a number of Chocolate Bar locations in the United States. Malls fall within its real estate strategy.

“Our ideal location is one that attracts heavy foot traffic on a consistent basis and has a healthy population of young adults, which comprise our target consumer,” said a spokesperson for the company.

© 2014