Elie Tahari at 40: Bob Galvin's Game Plan

The brand's chief executive officer is on a mission to bring a retail mentality to the sportswear stalwart.

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Tahari’s Fifth Avenue store.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Milestones issue 09/10/2013

Tahari plans to expand its retail presence in the U.S. and abroad. Right now, the company is considering locations in such markets as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami for additional freestanding stores.

“From a store perspective, I look for us to grow in a double-digit manner over the next few years,” said Galvin.

Tahari opened a full-price pop-up shop in June at 510 Fifth Avenue in New York, which he’s using as a laboratory. Products are manufactured on the fourth and fifth floors of the building and are then tested in the store. The space is frequently the site of photo shoots.

“Elie’s vision is to take that and roll it out to a larger retail footprint,” said Galvin.

He noted, too, that Tahari and the visual, sales, marketing and design teams spend time in the store. “Elie’s always going down there. That’s where he starts and ends his day. We do test shoots for the e-commerce team down there. We do set-ups for the mannequin displays, and we have DJs on Thursdays.”

He said the store is also a useful tool to get customer feedback — “It’s part commercial and part experimental.”

The pop-up will remain open through the end of the year.

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Tahari will offer Elie Tahari Edition 1974, a select group of pieces that encapsulate his career, such as a suit, a leather piece, a tube top and a trenchcoat. They will be available in stores this spring.

International expansion is another big initiative at the firm. Currently, Tahari is distributed in more than 30 countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the U.K., the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Azerbaijan, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Dubai, Israel, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bermuda and South Africa.

“We are growing in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia,” said Guidetti, who was previously senior vice president of international sales at St. John. “We are currently registering great sell-through performance from the spring 2013 season. Our major partners in Spain, Mexico and Korea are also registering a positive performance from the previous year.”

At present, 10 percent of Tahari’s business is done overseas, with plans to grow to 30 percent, he said. There are 250 points of distribution overseas and nearly 50 freestanding shops.

Guidetti noted that over the next 12 months, the main focus will be on China, Eastern Europe, the U.K., France and Germany.

“I always welcome and target customers and cities where the affluence of tourism is growing and becoming a significant part of their business,” he said. He noted that this month, the company’s e-commerce site will add the capabilities to ship internationally to more than 100 countries.

Interestingly, Tahari has built a half-billion-dollar business (in wholesale and retail sales) with relatively little traditional advertising.

“We haven’t had a big advertising presence,” said Scott Currie, vice president of global communications. “She [the customer] is coming in for the clothes because she identifies with the brand.”

Galvin said the company made a big investment in developing an e-commerce Web site. Tahari also likes to go into the stores, make personal appearances and get involved with charity events, such as Saks Fifth Avenue’s “Catwalk for the Cure,” an annual event that takes place in Houston in November. This year, as the featured designer, Tahari will present a fashion show of his spring looks at the Hotel ZaZa.

The biggest wholesale markets currently for the Elie Tahari brand are New York, California, Las Vegas, Florida and Dallas. The brand also does a strong business in Greenwich, Conn., and Houston. Top accounts are Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. Galvin noted that Elie Tahari is the largest sportswear vendor at Saks and is in 43 doors. The brand has the largest space on the “Wear Now” fourth floor, a 2,500-square-foot shop.

Joseph Boitano, group senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Saks, said, “Tahari has been and continues to be an important brand for Saks Fifth Avenue. Their dedication to outstanding design, precise tailoring and use of elegant fabrics is exactly what the Saks customer wants.”

At Bloomingdale’s, “For the last 20 years, Elie has been the backbone of our New View department,” said Frank Doroff, vice chairman and general merchandise manager of ready-to-wear and

Galvin said for the current fall season, product has performed well and the initial read is strong.

Besides helping transform the company’s mind-set, creating a vibrant international business and expanding products and direct-to-consumer business, Galvin said, “We want to make sure the here and now is functioning properly and that we’re moving the ball forward. Elie is thinking two or three steps down the road. He’s thinking about what will happen with the market, how the consumer will want to shop, what’s the message we want to send. The one thing about Elie is, he’s not opposed to change.”

He also said he’s learned a lot from Tahari.

“I’m able to gain a better understanding of him, the vision and the aesthetic.…I think of the world of Elie as far as what he creates, the vision he has and how he wants to reshape the way the business is conducted,” Galvin stated. “He’s not looking to say, ‘What was done the last 10 years?’ Elie is thinking about what he wants to do for the next 10 years. He’s absolutely focused on the future.”


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