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EXCLUSIVE: Century 21 Returning to Downtown NYC

by News Desk

Century 21  is making a New York City comeback, back to the very same flagship location on Cortlandt Street across from the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, WWD has learned.

The reopening of what was one of the city’s most popular and productive retail destinations will happen sometime in spring 2023. Century 21 went bankrupt and liquidated its flagship and all of its other stores in 2020.

“This is very exciting for us. This is a family business, founded by our father, so it’s not only a business decision, it’s an emotional one, too,” said Raymond Gindi, co-chief executive officer of Century 21. “We also owe it to our customers. Keeping Century 21 going is something we have been pushing toward ever since we closed.”

“Our dad built this business 60 years ago. We feel obligated to keep the legacy going,” added Raymond’s brother, IG Gindi, who also serves as co-CEO of the famous off-pricer.

“Vendors keep reaching out to us and have really been rooting for us to come back,” IG said. “There is such a huge need for our type of our business. Vendors were always really impressed with our conversion. We pretty much had a 45 percent conversion rate, which is unheard of in the retail industry.”

The Gindis told WWD that the revived flagship will be a streamlined version of the original, and will be running with the assistance of Legends, a company that oversees retail and hospitality operations at landmark establishments, including in New York the MLB flagship on Sixth Avenue; Yankee Stadium, and One World Observatory. It has also been behind the operations of such events as the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Raymond Gindi

During the bankruptcy process in 2020, the Gindi family, which owned, operated and founded the famous off-price chain, bought back the intellectual property for $9 million, together with a silent partner. However, now the business is entirely owned by IG and Raymond, and two cousins, Eddie and Isaac Gindi.

The bankruptcy filing and liquidation came as a shock to shoppers and the industry, considering the popularity of the store and the values offered on many designer and upscale labels. The Gindis blamed the bankruptcy on the pandemic and the inability to recover disaster insurance they thought the business was entitled to.

After they bought the IP, the Gindis began developing a strategy to resurrect the off-pricer, which always presented an assortment that, compared to other off-pricers, skewed higher in luxury and had many European labels in deeper breadth. The Century 21 stores, particularly the downtown flagship, consistently drew big crowds of bargain hunters. Typically Century 21 offered discounts from 40 to 65 percent off, and up to 90 percent off on clearance. At its peak it was a $700 million business with 13 stores and a website.

Months after purchasing the IP, the Gindis spoke of reviving the business through a store opening in Busan, Korea, though that plan was abandoned. That overseas store was in the works before COVID-19 hit, and as the pandemic spread, the Gindis decided it made more sense to reclaim a New York presence before operating abroad. “We put that on hold but we could visit international licensing” in the future, said Raymond. “Century 21 is, and always will be, a New York City brand.”

Next year will mark the second reopening of the flagship. It was destroyed on 9/11 and closed again during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Century 21 is also expected to relaunch its website at the same time as the flagship opens.

Raymond said that Century 21 will remain “true to its DNA, one synonymous with value and luxury.”

One change is that Century 21 will be adding NYC to its logo, to underscore its roots and commitment to the city.

IG Gindy

Legends, a global business, was founded in 2008. It has six divisions: global planning, global sales, global partnerships, hospitality, global merchandise, and global technology solutions. It offers data and analytics and helps clients design and plan experiences in sports, retail and entertainment. It has operated brick and mortar, pop-ups, e-commerce and in-venue retail experiences for many brands and events.

Legends will provide its omnichannel operating expertise to Century 21 and will handle logistics, ticketing and store operations including hiring selling associates, cashiers and others, as well as providing systems, including IT and point-of-sale. If Century 21 decides to open additional stores, Legends will be on the scene, said Raymond.

“Legends is proud to partner with Century 21 to bring the beloved retail experience back to New York City,” Dan Smith, president of Legends Hospitality, said in a statement. “Working side by side with the Century 21 team, we have enhanced the in-store and e-commerce experience.”

According to IG, Legends will help “take the stress out” of the off-price shopping experience.”

The flagship has been vacant since Century 21 closed two years ago. The Gindis have a long-term lease on the property, with about 75 years left.

The revived flagship will have about 100,000 square feet over four floors, three less than the old flagship, which occupied about 200,000 square feet over seven levels.

IG said that the new Century 21 flagship will be focused on men’s, women’s, kids apparel, outerwear and accessories; handbags; footwear; sunglasses, and fragrances. All those categories had been carried before. Home goods, cosmetics, intimate apparel and tech items were also carried before, but won’t be in the reconstituted Century 21.

“Each designer brand will be featured as its own collection, everything will be presented in an elevated way like we did before, but it will be more streamlined,” said IG.

Though Saks Off 5th also carries designer labels at a discount, IG sees there still being “white space” for better and designer goods that are discounted. “Our brand is luxury, designer, and emerging and up-and-coming designer brands,” he said.

Raymond said the company is considering reviving its catch phrase “Up to 65 percent off 100 percent of the time.”

“Customers want to know they are getting value and like to hear numbers,” said Raymond. “It is important to convey specifics around the value we are providing. We will still provide the treasure hunt, but with less of the hassle. So it will be more treasure, and less hunt.”

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