WWD news:
NEW YORK — The Hermès man and woman are going their separate ways.

Come fall 2009 and the opening of a four-level, 6,000-square-foot men's-only store at 690 Madison Avenue — the first in the world — customers of the French luxury brand will be relegated to distinct shopping venues for the appropriate sex. But couples won't have far to walk if they want to check out each other's products — the new men's store will be directly opposite the 10,600-square-foot Hermès flagship at 691 Madison Avenue.

The men's floor in the flagship is about 2,500 square feet. Men's merchandise is also scattered throughout the boutique. "When we move all men's products out, we will expand the women's area in the existing flagship," said Robert Chavez, president and chief executive officer of Hermès USA. "The main floor needs more space for all the product categories. We'll have the ability to carry even a broader assortment."

While women's is a bigger business overall, Chavez said, "One would be surprised to realize how significant the men's [business] is. We will continue to have strong double-digit growth in the women's category by virtue of the sheer space. We plan to easily double our men's business in the new store."

Chavez said the Madison Avenue flagship in the last few years had begun to feel cramped, especially during the holiday season. "Our business in the flagship has continued to grow significantly over the last couple of years," he said. "We need more space. The holiday season in there is pretty frenzied and during this last one, you could feel that we were maxing out. We want to have the ability to expand so we can handle each customer with the highest levels of service."

In terms of services, an entire floor in the men's store will be dedicated to Sur-mesure and Demi-mesure services, an extensive department for customization and made-to-measure items. "We have done very well with the made-to-measure business today," said Chavez. "We want to create a special ambiance for it."

Chavez characterized the men's-only store as an innovative idea on par with the opening of an Hermès unit on Wall Street. "Hermès is always looking to be innovative and creative and think outside of that orange box," he said. "What you see on Wall Street and the men's store are examples. There are some other concepts being discussed that are not just products, but strategies." As for why the company chose to invest in a New York store when the economy is less than rosy, Chavez said, "We really strategize for the long term."