Look out J. Press and J. Crew. New Haven’s Broadway shopping district will soon have a new place to find blazers, oxford shirts and argyle sweaters.
Gant, a Swiss-owned international clothing brand that sells such attire, plans to open a new store at 268 York St., right next door to J. Press, said Ari Hoffman, CEO of Gant U.S.A. in an interview last week. He saidhis company, which started in New Haven in 1949, has long planned a return to the Elm City as part of a marketing project to affirm Gant’s authenticity. For now, local businesses are not worried their revenues will be affected by their new neighbor.
“New Haven may not be the sexiest location, but it is our home and that’s where we should put our money,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said Yale will be a crucial part of its marketing campaign. Gant will relaunch a line of shirts this spring with the Yale logo, based on shirts sold at the Yale Co-op in the late-1960s, according to a press release.
For the past half year, Gant has been scouting for locations in New Haven. The perfect opportunity came when Kerin Eco-Friendly Boutique closed down in late September, Hoffman said.
But Gant will not be the only clothing store in town with historic ties to New Haven. J. Press, its next door neighbor, has been in business on York St. since its founding in 1902. In fact, in its early days, Gant used to manufacture shirts for J. Press.
J. Press salesman James Cuticello said he “feels sorry” for Kerin, which used to occupy the building, adding that he thinks it could not establish a market in New Haven because its clothing, which was made exclusively of vegan products, has limited appeal and costs too much for its synthetic material. But Gant might avoid Kerin’s fate because Gant has a wider appeal for students and shoppers in general, he said.
Although J. Press and Gant offer a lot of similar clothing in similar price ranges, the two probably will not be competing too much with each other, Cuticello said. He said J. Press is known for its formal attires, like suits and sports coats, while Gant is known for its casual clothing. Cuticello added that he thinks Gant will compete more with J. Crew than J. Press.
The New Haven J. Crew had no comments about Gant’s coming to York Street. The J. Crew corporate headquarters could not be reached for comment.
Gant’s price range is above that of J. Crew’s, said Hoffman. For instance, a J. Crew men’s tartan button-down shirt costs $59.50 online while a similar Gant tartan shirt costs $158.00 online.
“It’s not about how much business it will bring, though we hope to bring in business, but it’s really about being involved with Yale,” Hoffman said.
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The company has ties to Scandinavia, having been marketed and then acquired by a Swedish company during the 1980s and 90s. Ninety-nine percent of Gant’s clothing is manufactured outside of the U.S., Hoffman said.
Janne Salo ’14, who is from Finland, said because Gant is Swedish it is well-known for high-quality clothing throughout Scandinavia.
As part of its “campus store” business plan, Gant will hire Yale students and offer student discounts.
Gant’s marketing toward college students follows a current trend among preppy clothing brands, who advertise their authenticity by presenting their clothing as “Americana”. Companies that some considered out-of-date, such as Woolrich, Quoddy and Timex are now referring to themselves as “heritage brands,” and L.L. Bean and Sperry are featuring their history in their advertisements.
“We are telling people we are not an imaginary brand,” Hoffman said. “The relaunch of the Yale Co-op brand next year—it will be in London, in Milan. We will be communicating this on a global basis.”
The store’s prices and discounts are important factors according to the seven students interviewed, who added that the cost of its merchandise is still a concern.
“I’m not sure the stuff is going to fly off the shelves, but students here pay for quality, and there are a lot of fashion-savvy people who are going to take advantage of Gant,” Bijan Stephen ’13 said. “I’ll definitely stop by. Not sure if I’ll buy anything, but I’m curious to see it.”
The students interviewed expressed excitement to see Gant return to New Haven, and most are drawn by the element of tradition.
“J. Crew can attract pedestrian traffic, because of the more accessible price range,” Scott Simpson ’13 said. “I’m not all about ‘Old Yale’ but it will be nice to have that element of history in a clothing store here.”
Thomas Meyer ’13 said he thinks Yale students will flock to the store if it delivers on its promise of “Yale-oriented swag.”
Gant plans to open two weeks before Thanksgiving.