Century 21 stays a New York Metropolis fixture, regardless of all its ups and downs.

Subsequent Thursday marks the primary anniversary of the storied off-pricer’s return to enterprise with a single website at 22 Cortlandt Avenue — its unique flagship located in Manhattan’s monetary district.

“It’s actually been a yr of relearning retailing and relearning New York Metropolis, however we’re positively optimistic,” stated Larry Mentzer, the chief working officer of Century 21. “Our roots return to 1961 in New York the place our model grew up. New York is the place see our previous and our future.”

The Century 21 flagship was destroyed throughout the terrorist assault on the World Commerce Middle on Sept. 11, 2001. It was rebuilt however pressured to shut in September 2020, together with the off-pricer’s 12 different shops, when the enterprise went bankrupt claiming its insurance coverage wrongly did not cowl the lack of revenues because of the pandemic. Different retailers had been additionally pushed into chapter 11 by the pandemic, however Century 21’s submitting got here as a shock contemplating how persistently common and productive the off-pricer had been, notably in decrease Manhattan.

However since reopening a yr in the past, “We hear from our clients each day that Century 21 is just not what it was and so they’re truly proper. It’s higher,” Mentzer stated in an unique interview with WWD.

Within the following Q&A, Mentzer particulars how Century 21 has advanced within the yr because it reopened, the way it differentiates from opponents and what the long run holds for the famed retailer.

Larry Mentzer, on the reopening of Century 21 on Might 16, 2023.

Deonté Lee/BFA.com

WWD: What’s new and totally different about your remade flagship?
Larry Mentzer:
“Whereas we’re in the identical location, the footprint is just not fairly half the scale. It’s about 100,000 sq. ft, gross, with roughly 70,000 sq. ft promoting over 4 flooring. We don’t carry a few of the classes we had previously, particularly a number of the house classes, youngsters’s footwear and lingerie. We don’t carry full magnificence any longer. However what we’ve actually tried to do is modernize the model when it comes to what we convey to the client.

WWD: How does Century 21 differentiate?
Designer manufacturers at superb costs is the white house we fill and which makes Century 21 totally different than the opposite off-price guys form of in our lane. We watch the extra reasonably priced off-price gamers, however we actually look towards what Saks Off fifth and Nordstrom Rack are doing and attempt to fill (the house) we don’t assume they fill — an ever-changing assortment of actual designer merchandise. We don’t make any non-public label. Our consumers are out each day in search of the perfect offers on the perfect manufacturers we all know our buyer needs and might’t discover at different shops, off-price, apart from perhaps an occasional pattern sale.

You’re not going to search out the quantity of Versace or Balmain or a few of the different nice designers we have now at these costs anyplace else. We’re always curating. Our enterprise could be dramatically totally different in two weeks. We will have a completely totally different assortment earlier than the top of the month, which is what a few of these larger guys actually can’t do. They’re not as nimble as us. We’re so liquid, and we’re turning so quick. What you see within the retailer at the moment, by Tuesday of subsequent week, it gained’t be completely totally different however it will likely be dramatically totally different.

We get new arrivals each day, Monday via Friday, one to 2 vehicles. 1000’s of latest models are available in each day. You don’t see that at a few of the larger retailers, whether or not their full-line or off-price. And the truth that we’re in New York, we are able to (readily) get into the showrooms. We’ve received nice relationships with our distributors from the outdated Century 21 in addition to new distributors that may shortly pump new items into our retailer. It brings newness to the client as a result of on the finish of the day, that’s what she’s in search of — one thing new, one thing totally different and one thing at an incredible value. We test all these bins.”

Century 21's vintage department.

Century 21’s classic division.

Courtesy picture

WWD: Century 21 just lately staged a “Deal of the Century” occasion with Moschino. What’s that format all about?
L.M.: We work with a few of our distributors to usher in an expanded assortment from them. So with Moschino it was girls’s attire, males’s attire, footwear, equipment pulled collectively below the headline, “Deal of the Century,” and we dropped it proper on the primary flooring and used social media and our associate ShopShops (the net livestreaming buying app) to market the occasion.

WWD: What are some prime manufacturers you may discover at Century 21?
L.M.: Along with Moschino, there’s Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, Zegna, Balmain. Additionally, our service provider workforce has been working to go after the up to date enterprise, manufacturers that you just don’t usually see off-price like Reformation, Rag & Bone, All Saints, Ted Baker, John Varvatos.

Century 21 men's department.

The boys’s space.

Courtesy picture

WWD: What’s your pricing like?
L.M.: From a advertising and marketing viewpoint, it’s as much as 65 p.c off, one hundred pc of the time. Some offers are even higher. The Moschino Deal of the Century was marketed at as much as 90 p.c off.

WWD: How is Century 21 performing?
L.M.: We’re doing OK. New York is just not what it was in 2019. Site visitors is totally different. The client is totally different. Tourism is totally different. You don’t see that rush within the morning, with hybrid work schedules and fewer folks coming to the workplace, particularly within the monetary district, Monday via Friday. However we’re optimistic and studying a brand new technique to survive in New York Metropolis and prosper within the retail sector.

WWD: Is the smaller flagship extra productive than the earlier flagship?
L.M.: From a dollars-per-square-foot viewpoint, it’s not. However once more, the assortment is so totally different. We’re not evaluating apples to apples. On the outdated Century 21 we had full magnificence, with vendor installations on the primary flooring. We had an enormous tie division. Now I don’t know when the final time I noticed somebody put on a tie. Folks shopped and dressed in a different way.

WWD: Wasn’t magnificence regular-priced, and never off-price?
L.M.: From the distributors’ viewpoint, it was full value. From Century’s viewpoint we provided you a bounce-back coupon to convey it below the off-price umbrella. Principally, the extra you spent, there was a bounce-back supply to the client on full value.

We’re going after magnificence differently, not with vendor-installed counters. We don’t assume clients are coming to us for magnificence per se, conventional magnificence. We do supply pickup gadgets. Each time you come into the shop there are magnificence and skincare gadgets which are extra like seize and go. Like our attire providing, it’s an ever-changing magnificence providing. There’s shade therapy, skincare, hair care and all of the equipment that associate with these, whether or not it’s brushes, hair dryers, curling irons. We imagine magnificence is a chance for us however not in the way in which we did it previously.

The Century 21 buying bag with its up to date emblem.

WWD: On the working aspect, what different modifications have been remodeled the previous yr?
L.M.: We’ve expanded our retailer hours primarily based on shopper suggestions. Once we first opened, (retailer hours) had been 10 to six. Then we went to 10 to 7. And now we’re 9 to 9. We’re positively seeing extra folks on the road within the morning, and because it stays lighter later, we’re seeing extra folks out and about after 6 o’clock at night time. Fairly actually, we’re doing a wholesome enterprise between 6 and eight:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays after we’re open till 9 at night time.

WWD: What’s the state of affairs with vacationers? Century at all times had a large out-of-town following.
L.M.: We’re working with New York Metropolis Tourism and Conventions to grasp who’s coming to New York. We’re not a retailer for vacationers. We’re a retailer for locals. We imagine we’re the most important retailer under Canal Avenue each when it comes to footprint and quantity, the neighborhood retailer within the monetary district. That’s what we need to be and that’s what we had been earlier than. However we additionally know a number of vacationers come to Century 21. So we’re working with the Downtown Alliance and the New York Metropolis Tourism and Conventions to grasp the place vacationers are coming from. How lengthy are they staying? And the way can we get our justifiable share of tourism {dollars} being left in New York. Loads of of us visiting New York are extra about experiences — sporting occasions, music occasions, cultural occasions, consuming out. Retail is just not on the prime of the record because it had been previously.

We’re gearing our consideration on hyper-locals, individuals who dwell in Jersey Metropolis, decrease Manhattan, in all probability under Canal Avenue, and downtown Brooklyn, and on day-trippers, that are individuals who are available in and exit of town. Then there’s the gatekeepers, folks in northern New Jersey, Westchester, higher Manhattan, Queens, Nassau County, even Staten Island, individuals who come into town for work or play periodically. It’s the place they work, the place they go for leisure and eating places. They’re additionally very snug coming out and in of town, however it’s a commute. Everybody else is known as a vacationer.

WWD: What about opening a second retailer, to succeed in extra customers?
L.M.: We’re desirous to get extra shops open inside the New York Metropolis space. As I stated, New York Metropolis is the place we’re from. We lean into that. Our shops flourished right here, up till COVID. And we imagine there’s room within the retail market in New York Metropolis for not less than one other Century 21 if no more, within the close to future.…We’re at all times speaking to folks and taking a look at house, however we’re not actively speaking to anybody a couple of Century 21 within the subsequent 12 months.

We ran giant footprints previously. The suitable-size retailer for us might be someplace between 50,000 and 80,000 sq. ft, not the 120,000- to 150,000-square-foot bins we ran previously. It’s a brand new world in retail and having these large footprints aren’t actually what the client is in search of. You see a number of retailers now in search of smaller retailer codecs. We had been on that path anyway, again in 2019. We had been opening up a prototype retailer in Staten Island pre-COVID that by no means opened. However shrinking the footprint, making it simpler to buy, making a frictionless setting for the client, all these issues are necessary at the moment, and that’s arduous to do.

WWD: Are you contemplating e-commerce?
L.M.: It was our intent to launch as an omni-retailer final yr — the shop and the web site on the identical time. We had a wide range of challenges, actually in regards to the logistics, that pressured us to place the web site on the again burner. We do intend sooner or later to get again into the e-commerce enterprise.…We’re working with a 3PL (third-partly logistics agency) referred to as Dynamic out of New Jersey. So a part of our settlement with Dynamic is that they are going to do our warehousing in addition to our choose, packing and delivery for the web site when it launches. We had a unique 3Pl earlier than. The IT element, and the digital nature of e-commerce, offered a number of challenges as as to whether all of our companions had been capable of interface with one another to create a seamless expertise for our buyer, the entire thrill of the hunt. Prior to now, we did all of it in-house. Our programs had been in-house; we owned and operated our personal warehouses. We’re utilizing companions now as a result of we imagine that’s the appropriate technique to relaunch Century 21.

The women's designer department at Century 21.

The ladies’s designer division.

We’re not but capable of convey the total web site again to the client, that means Century21stores.com. However are working with ShopShops on a super-curated on-line assortment that’s just like e-commerce, however I’ll simply name it digital income. It’s not a web site per se. It’s accomplished off of their app the place we may even characteristic a super-curated, tight assortment, and once more, superb offers from Century 21. We’re additionally working with ShopShops on a TikTok retailer.

Now we’re working with another companions to attempt to generate some digital income and produce not less than a chunk of the shop to the client who can’t get downtown. ShopShops are within the retailer three or 4 occasions per week. They’ve totally different on-air hosts who’ve large followings. To have the ability to get wherever between 2,000 and 4,000 folks to look at a streaming present from Century 21 about sun shades, that’s fairly good. So there’s a terrific advertising and marketing halo impact to this. It brings the model to folks exterior of the monetary district and out of doors of New York Metropolis.

WWD: What’s your place on pre-owned merchandise?
L.M.: We attempt to meet the wants and needs of our clients and our clients have instructed us that it’s necessary to them. So we’re in that enterprise via a associate, Two Authenticators. They do the entire authentication and the value setting. In all probability 95 p.c (of the assortment) is purses, once in a while there’s some equipment and jewellery. The merchandise rolls out and in and possibly modifications each 90 days. There’s a great assortment. It’s a number of Louis Vuitton. We do have Chanel purses.

WWD: Firm-wide, what’s been promoting finest?
L.M.: Our males’s enterprise is nice throughout the board, whether or not it’s the up to date manufacturers, the designer, or the normal manufacturers, it’s good from one finish to the opposite. Century 21 traditionally had been a vacation spot for males’s attire. It was on the primary flooring and the second flooring on the outdated Century 21. It’s on the third flooring at the moment. Positively it’s totally different.…(Nonetheless) we’re seeing nice development in males’s.

The identical is true in girls’s attire. We’ve been thrilled with our enterprise in true designer. It’s in all probability about 8,000 to 10,000 sq. ft of a always altering superb designer assortment. The designer enterprise may be very wholesome. We’re positively going after girls’s up to date. We see development there. We see development in lively. And we’re planning on reopening our lingerie division within the fall of 2024. It is going to be proper off the the ladies’s flooring so the adjacency is nice.

We’re utilizing information to make selections, and gathering suggestions from the purchasers about what’s lacking. From day one, she anticipated to discover a lingerie division at Century 21.

WWD: What’s your outlook on the enterprise?
L.M.: We’re not seeing the site visitors that we noticed in Q3 of 2023. So it’s positively been totally different January, February and March. However I can inform you post-Easter, we’ve positively seen it, you recognize, which might be the top of fiscal Q1. It’s bettering, each day is best than yesterday. We’re getting some traction and site visitors is choosing up and gross sales are choosing up. So I don’t know if that’s a operate of it getting lighter, however I don’t have a final yr to base it on; it’s troublesome to inform.

Century 21's main floor.

Century 21’s important flooring.

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