NEW YORK Reports this week indicated that retail sales are on the rebound and, in an almost deliberate show of proof, a trio of large consumer brands heralded new store openings with celebrity-filled crowds and live musical acts. Last week saw hundreds of guests descend on events for the Gap concept store and Banana Republic's new downtown flagship—both in SoHo—and a Tuesday-night blowout packed the new Times Square home of American Eagle Outfitters.
For Banana Republic, the event on Wednesday, November 11, not only entertained guests with a set from singer-songwriter Charlie Mars, but also served as a launch platform for the new “One + All' program designed to encourage customers to volunteer for community organizations. The crowd included Mars' girlfriend and Weeds star Mary-Louise Parker, Bungalow 8 owner Amy Sacco, and Elle editor in chief Robbie Myers.
A day later, and only a couple of blocks down Broadway, Banana corporate sibling Gap introduced the first concept store centered around its 1969 premium jeans collection with a V.I.P. shopping night sponsored by Nylon. Extending a campaign that included a publicity stunt at the New York Stock Exchange and a pop-up store on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, the apparel brand hosted a casual shindig that offered a 30 percent discount and donated a portion of the proceeds to Feeding America. Guests such as Emmy Rossum and Ugly Betty's Becki Newton snacked on chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and beer, while DJ Cassidy spun tunes before the indie band TV/TV took to the stage.
Bigger in size than the other two—25,000 square feet compared with Gap's 8,000-square-foot and Banana Republic's 18,000-square-foot locations—the American Eagle store got its fair share of star power, with celebrities such as Ashlee Simpson, Project Runway winner Christian Siriano, and Entourage's Adrian Grenier in attendance. Accompanying the night's activities—personalized hoodies, graffiti artists painting trucker hats, and a live feed of arrivals displayed on a 25-story LED sign outside—Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester sang tunes from her forthcoming debut album.