At a time when retail stores are regularly biting the dust, opening a brick-and-mortar shop seems like it’s going against the tide.
But that’s exactly what’s happening this summer when Jeffrey, the ritzy purveyor of high-end luxury clothing and accessories, opens its third U.S. location in Palo Alto’s Stanford Shopping Center.
Then again, Jeffrey, which launched nearly three decades ago — is not your average store.
The upscale shop sells goods from designers all over the world with price tags that often reach several-thousand dollars. It gained a reputation as a store so exclusive that the New York store inspired a sketch on Saturday Night Live. And this is Jeffrey’s first new store in almost 20 years.
Founder Jeffrey Kalinsky travels the world to find merchandise from international designers, including Balenciaga, Dior, Gucci, and others. Scan the website and you’ll find a dress from Balmain for about $6,700 or a Fear of God sneaker for more than $1,100.
Come Aug. 2, that kind of merchandise will be available — to those with the cash to afford it — at a 12,000 square-foot Jeffrey store in the Stanford Shopping Center.
Kalinsky started with a boutique in Atlanta and opened Jeffrey New York in 1999. The move to open in lower Manhattan’s meatpacking district, which back then was not a retail hot spot, turned heads, but the store earned a reputation for its exclusivity and attracted high-end shoppers.
In 2005, Nordstrom bought a majority stake in Jeffrey, bringing on Kalinsky as director of designer merchandising for the department chain. Nordstrom still owns Jeffrey, and Kalinsky retains his title at Nordstrom, though he said the Jeffrey boutique, which he oversees and for which he does the buying, remains a completely separate business from Nordstrom’s department store operations.
Kalinsky said he was drawn to Palo Alto and loves the variety of retail, dining and activities — like spin classes at SoulCycle — that the mall provides. “The time felt right to open a new store,” Kalinsky said.
Many retail execs aren’t saying those words right now, but a store like Jeffrey may not be as vulnerable to the challenges of today’s retail world as others, in part because its target audience is more likely to want to shop in person for expensive luxury items.
“When you’re selling the level of product that we sell, it often needs to be done in person,” Kalinsky said. “I find our clients don’t come in just for one thing. They come in to shop for the season, or they may come in two or three times per season, and they want to come (and interact) with a knowledgeable salesperson.”
Kalinsky works to offer a unique smattering of goods, but Jeffrey will hardly be the only luxury retailer in Palo Alto, where Stanford Shopping Center also houses Cartier, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton and a Tesla showroom, among others.
For Stanford Shopping Center, a Simon Property Group mall, the opening is a chance to further differentiate the mall.
“He is one of the fashion landscape’s most sought-after retailers and will be the perfect complement to our luxury brand presentation in Palo Alto,” said Stanford Shopping Center’s director of marketing, Rachel Roberts, in an email.
Malls in affluent areas that can afford to invest in infrastructure and attract competitive tenants have fared relatively well in recent years even as lower-tier malls have struggled. The Stanford Shopping Center recently completed a 120,000 square-foot renovation and plans to add more shopping, dining and fitness tenants over the summer.