RANDOM NOTES: Apple opened its third store in Manhattan, in the heart of the city’s trendy meatpacking district. The 25,000-sq.-ft. store is the company’s first three-level location and second-largest to date (with the largest on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue). It’s set off with a dramatic spiral glass staircase that leads from the main floor to the third level, which is dedicated to individualized services. The location features a 46-ft. Genius Bar (the longest so far) and also is home to Apple’s first Pro Labs, which provides free in-depth training on creative professional applications. A concierge team is on duty to help shoppers navigate the busy space. Personal shoppers are also available.… Abercrombie & Fitch is set to unveil its newest retail brand, an intimate-apparel store for teens and young adults. The new concept, called Gilley Hicks, is debuting at the Natick Collection, in Natick, Mass. It comes on the heels of the success of Victoria’s Secret youthful Pink label, which is testing freestanding locations, and American Eagle’s loungewear format, Aerie, which has some 32 stores.… Calvin Klein opened a 12,000-sq.-ft. store devoted to its white label of apparel and accessories in Los Angeles’ Beverly Center. Designed by Lynch Eisinger Design, New York City, it has a modern look, with hand-rubbed steel racks, and a mix of white, concrete and mahogany walls. The company sees the potential for up to 80 to 125 locations across the United States.… Banana Republic will premier its first U.K. flagship in March, on London’s Regent Street. The 17,000-sq.-ft. store will combine the brand’s signature simple, contemporary-styled interiors with the historic architecture of the building.
NEW PROJECTS: Santa Monica Place, the 30-year-old mall in downtown Santa Monica, Calif., closed its doors at the end of January to allow work to begin on its transformation into an open-air, luxury center. The redesign will include the addition of a dining area (above the three levels of retail) with several restaurants on a deck with views of the Pacific Ocean. Design firm for the project is The Jerde Partnership, Venice, Calif. Construction is due to start in the spring, with a scheduled fall 2009 opening.
COMPANY/PERSONNEL UPDATES: Marc Gobe has left his position as CEO and chairman of the firm Desgrippes Gobe. He is launching his own consulting firm, Emotional Branding.
UPCOMING EVENTS:Chain Store Age’s annual SPECS conference will be held March 9-12, 2008, at the Hilton Anatole, Dallas. For more information, go to