Brooks Brothers Gambles With Beverly Hills Flagship Location

By ANDY FIXMER
Staff Reporter

Brooks Brothers' new West Coast flagship on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills marks the beginning of a new strategy for the venerable retailer, which is trying to expand outside its traditional locations.

Since its founding 185 years ago, Brooks Brothers has purposely concentrated its stores near business centers and courthouses, where there is a built-in market for its tailored suits.

But when Enfield, Conn.-based Retail Brand Alliance acquired the company for $225 million in late 2001, it shifted the focus to outside those established locations.

Specifically, the company wanted new flagships in Los Angeles and Milan, Italy. Stores in both cities are scheduled to open by the end of next month.

In Los Angeles, the company plans to keep its locations downtown and at Westfield Shoppingtown Century City, which is less than three miles away from the new Rodeo flagship.

Retail analysts believe the Rodeo store will undermine business at the Century City location, which they said is a better fit than Beverly Hills. In Century City, Brooks Brothers sits near other high-end stores like Coach and Tiffany.

"These are to a large degree destination stores and though they are clearly not as high-end as the premium stores in Beverly Hills, they are drawing good traffic," said Aubie Goldenberg, a partner in Ernst & Young's retail and consumer products division.

"With tourism down so much, it has had a significant impact on Rodeo and Beverly Hills traffic in general," he said. "Now the question is are they (Brooks Brothers) enough of a destination to draw consumers to shop there?"

But others say that with suits starting at around $600, Brooks Brothers will be able to undercut its competition in Beverly Hills.

Brooks Brothers has also changed its clothing to reflect the more casual business environment by offering more chinos and polo shirts, which go over with the Westside's entertainment industry, said Bruce Burton, director of international business consulting for apparel accounting and consulting firm Stonefield Josephson Inc.

Tommy Hilfiger Corp., which abandoned the same location three years ago, believed it could draw the traffic as well. Instead, the 22,000 square foot storefront, the largest on Rodeo Drive, has sat vacant since Hilfiger's departure.

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