After spending the past six years building Tenet into a year-round fashion destination in Southampton, N.Y., owner Jesse Warren knew the time was right to expand elsewhere in the affluent area.
He had long been eyeing Newtown Lane in East Hampton, particularly the space occupied for years by Scoop. So when the longtime retailer suddenly went out of business and closed all of its doors earlier this summer, Warren took action.
“Being a local, I knew it was one of the best spaces. I kept my ear to the ground and made sure we had the opportunity to move in there,” he said. In late July, Warren debuted Tenet’s store there. He plans to keep it open through the Hamptons Film Festival in October — and maybe longer.
The retailer stocks a variety of brands, among them Soludos, Isabel Marant, Common Projects and Golden Goose. This summer, Warren also brought in emerging name Sarah Flint, and the designer is teaming with the shop for an in-store event in Southampton later this month. “Footwear has always been a strong performer for us, and it’s a healthy part of our business,” said Warren.
While Tenet already had roots in the Hamptons, some fashion players entered the market for the first time this year with temporary stores. The pop-up phenomenon has become more common across the country, but it continues to define the Hamptons landscape because so much of the business is done during the summer months.
There’s no doubt that more fashion players are vying for attention on New York’s so-called East End, and insiders said the market is still ripe with opportunity.
“Everyone knows there is business to be done, and accessories is definitely an area of expansion,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the retail leasing, marketing and sales division at Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
Aquazzura — a standout success story in a difficult luxury climate — decided to make a splash this year with a seasonal location in East Hampton. The move came on the heels of its New York flagship opening and ahead of its debut in Miami’s Bal Harbour Shops.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, shoppers at the Hamptons boutique were trying on some of the brand’s most popular styles, including its Christy lace-up flats and Wild Thing sandals. “We are seeing many of our existing New York clients shop as well as new ones who holiday in the area,” said Aquazzura creative director Edgardo Osorio. “It’s an area that gives fantastic visibility to the brand.”
The ability to reach a well-heeled crowd and expand her consumer base was also compelling for Los Angeles-based Jenni Kayne.
The designer, known for her d’orsay flats, set up shop in Southampton with a pop-up in a tucked-away location on Main Street. “For some time now, I’ve dreamt of opening a store in New York. What has stopped me, however, is distance,” the designer said.
“I love being hands-on and present,” she added. “I like to [visit] my stores regularly. Because of this, having a summer pop-up in the Hamptons seems like the perfect middle ground right now.”
While retailers who are testing the area said they are pleased with early results, storeowners with permanent locations are cautious about their prospects this season.
August is traditionally the busiest month across the Eastern Long Island communities, but many storeowners expect business to be flat compared with last year. In addition to overall economic uncertainty, the weather has been a major factor once again in 2016.
“We’ve had too many sunny weekend days,” said Billy Lawson, owner of Shoe Inn, an area mainstay that counts locations in East Hampton and West Hampton.
Still, the footwear veteran said he was pleased to see that early fall merchandise was selling. “I spread out the seasons more now,” said Lawson, adding that sneakers and athletic-inspired looks continue to lead the way at his Newton Lane store in East Hampton.
A few blocks away, Sneakerology owner Gary Dworetz said that while business has been uneven this summer, there are definite pockets of strength. Adidas Originals product is “the hottest thing going,” Dworetz said. “People come in and are so happy we have Stan Smiths.” Vans and Under Armour are also among Sneakerology’s top performers, while Nike is still its biggest vendor overall.
Other retailers are also making a major play for the hot active space. In May, Tory Burch converted her East Hampton store into a Tory Sport location following the concept’s launch earlier this year.
To generate excitement, the designer hit the road last month in her traveling pop-up: a 1972 Volkswagen bus, which had been converted into a mobile surf shop. Shoppers were encouraged to post Instagram photos of the bus and use the hashtag #torysport to get a discount on merchandise.
There’s no question that digital and social initiatives have changed the game this summer.
For example, Los Angeles-based e-tailer Revolve shelled out big bucks to rent a house in Watermill for the month of July, bringing in social stars Kim Kardashian, Nicole Richie, Chrissy Teigen and Hailey Baldwin to host events. The company also invited influential bloggers to take up residence — and document their experience on social.
“New York is a huge market for us, and being a West Coast company, it was important to make our mark,” said Raissa Gerona, VP of brand marketing and strategic partnerships for Revolve. “The Hamptons has that perfect vibe. It’s beautiful, but it’s also aspirational — and we wanted to show that lifestyle to our customers.”
While the company was determined to ramp up buzz, Gerona said there was no product being sold at the house — and that was intentional. Instead, influencers donned styles from the site, including Raye, Revolve’s biggest shoe brand.
In another social play, Tretorn partnered with Montauk hot spot The Surf Lodge to outfit staff members in the brand for the summer. Tretorn, which is marking its 125th anniversary, will also unveil a pop-up there on Aug. 27 & 28, and is working with blogger Justin Livingston to bring attention to the initiative.