Hamptons Now Plagued With Value Retail

Photo: Niche Media/WireImage

The Hamptons are not over, they've just been poorer lately. After the economy bottomed out last year, the area's retail scene had to do some soul-searching. From WWD:

“We have rolled the clock back 10 years, in terms of retail,” observed Lars Svanberg, owner of Main Beach Surf, at 352 Montauk Highway in Wainscott. “It’s a shorter season. It’s compressed to two months. Now we’re dialing into July and August. Every business will tell you the same thing. People are spending less time in the Hamptons. They’re busy working, trying to make a buck.”

But things are looking better this season, as Hamptons people might be getting richer again. Or at least rich enough to spend on frippery like flowers.

For Jamee Gregory, a longtime resident of Southampton, early indicators bode well for the season. “Houses are starting to sell again,” said Gregory, who returned to Southampton last weekend after a trip to Los Angeles to find quite a different scene than the one she left. “When we left, it was very quiet and peaceful,” she said. “When we came back, it was insane. There was nowhere to park your car in town. We went to Sant Ambroeus [a restaurant in Southampton] and people were screaming and fighting over the booths. I went to Lynch’s nursery and people were fighting over the pink hibiscus,” she said, noting that garden center activity is a sign people are feeling better about the economy.

Retailers think they will be more interested in buying clothes again, too. Sure, stores like Gucci have moved out, but other stores like Chico's and Juicy Couture have moved in. And since 75 percent of business in the Hamptons is just done in a few months over the summer, more companies will open summer pop-up shops, so they can get in, make a buck, and get out when the rich people do. Or as WWD puts it, "For the first time, value has entered into the retail equation" in the neighborhood. Heavens.

But these stores want to blend in, not flaunt their good values. It's like being at a party with a bunch of rich people — you don't tell everyone there you only have one nice dress and you wore it that night for them.

J. Crew Group doesn’t view its stores in East Hampton and Southampton as seasonal. “Our following is year-round. We are not in it for a quick splash, summer-in-the-Hamptons-image thing,” said Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chairman and ceo. “We have long-term leases. We treat our stores in the Hamptons like collection stores,” which offer J. Crew’s higher-price range.

But it sounds like plenty of people are more interested in fancy stores like Scoop, where business is just fabulous.

“We are very excited about the upcoming season,” said Susan Davidson, president and ceo of Scoop, which operates a store in East Hampton that’s getting “a mini facelift” with new visuals, furniture and fixturing. “Year-to-date, we have one of our biggest increases going, and it’s not even the season yet. Anything beach related — Missoni cover-ups, Poupette gauzy summer tops and dresses, the dress business and shorts are through the roof. What women are dropping to buy dresses is unbelievable.”

Hooray! The money really is back! So, shameless consumption didn't really disappear, it just took a little vacation.

Summer in the Hamptons: Better, But No Boom [WWD]