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Yves Saint Laurent Closes Two U.S. Stores — Including First New York Boutique

November 8, 2009
Yves Saint Laurent stands in front of his first London store on Bond Street, September 10, 1969

Yves Saint Laurent stands in front of his first London store on Bond Street, September 10, 1969

(NEW YORK) – The blog Madison Avenue Spy reports that Yves Saint Laurent will close its 41-year old Madison Avenue store, YSL’s first U.S. outpost.  It’s no secret that Madison Avenue retail has lost plenty of pow in recent months with numerous stores closing or limping towards 2010.  YSL fans will now need to schlep up to the store on 57th Street.

But it’s not only happening in New York. We’ve heard from one YSL insider that San Francisco’s Maiden Lane boutique is next on the list. Originally slated to close December 15, the date has now been pushed up to late November, with a confirmed date of November 12 for an invitation-only 20% off shopping event (the Madison Avenue store will host a similar event on November 16th, and then will accept presale orders for first markdown.)

A salesperson with one of Yves Saint Laurent’s boutiques has told me that it’s become increasingly frequent for customers to simply phone in their orders rather than visit the boutique. That means fewer opportunities to upsell them on buying more.

But it’s something that is happening everywhere. With such high-quality internet and advertising content out there, most people already know what they want before it even hits the store. The luxury boutique, once a place to experience and discover the magic and allure of a brand’s image, is now simply a place of procurement —  an expensive warehouse rather than showroom. This may not be the case for everyone, but certainly for those who matter; i.e., those luxury VIP’s who often know more about the product than the poor salesperson who lives off a commission. Those people are a luxury store’s bread-and-butter, and now… the store is toast. Adieu.

Ironically enough WWD reported on November 19, 1986 — almost to the day of the rumored closing of YSL’s now second foray into San Francisco retail —  that the first Yves Saint Laurent boutique at 450 Sutter Street would close for good. Saint Laurent himself attended the opening of that store. In 2001, I attended the opening of the Maiden Lane boutique where I encountered a “woman of a certain age” standing in front of that store. She smiled and offered me an unopened pack of YSL cigarettes — a gift to her from the original Sutter Street store when it opened in the early 1970′s. It was packaged in bergundy and black with an embossed gold logo, so reminiscent of a time when YSL had a Midas touch with marketing everything from socks to cigarettes.

Au Revoir, Yves. Hope you come back to San Francisco. Next time though, please don’t do the black bathrooms with black toilets — that Tom Ford cocaine look is so dated, and my eyesight is terrible and I can’t see a bloody thing when I’m in there.