Cartier is reopening its flagship on New York's Fifth Avenue after two and a half years of renovations. The restored landmark is a museum, as much a shop, celebrating the luxury jeweler's past and paying homage to its celebrity clients.
"This mansion has been designed to attract people in and to allow them to become part of the family," said Mercedes Abramo, Cartier's North America chief executive officer and president, in an interview on Bloomberg Television. It is her hope that customers will feel at home when shopping at Cartier, despite its imposing location.
The Cartier mansion was once the private home of financier Morton F. Plant, who traded the residence to Pierre Cartier for $100 and a Cartier double strand of natural pearls that was coveted by the former's wife. In the main entrance of the restored flagship, customers are greeted by a painting of Plant's wife wearing the necklace.
The Maisie Plant Salon is not the only nod to the brand's past. Cartier uses its long list of celebrity clients to sell its baubles on all four floors. In the Andy Warhol Salon, the men's collection is on display along with a self-portrait of the artist wearing his Cartier Tank watch. Cartier also dedicated a salon to Elizabeth Taylor, where—no surprise—the room is filled with the brand's higher-end pieces.
Most impressive, an oval room on the second floor is dedicated to Grace Kelly, who received a Cartier engagement ring from Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1955. With the American actress as a centerpiece, her story helps to sell Cartier's finest engagement rings. To celebrate the opening, throughout September a selection of the Princess's jewelry will be on display, including her engagement ring.
The reopening comes in the midst of a luxury industry slump. High-end brands are coping with falling demand from China and a drop in tourist dollars. Cartier's owner, Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, said that first-half operating profit will probably decline about 45 percent and warned it may have to deepen cost cuts. But Cartier's American leadership sees potential with its refurbished flagship.
"The wonderful thing about New York is that it is an attraction for everyone, both Americans, local clients, and international tourists, international business travelers. For us, New York is a very strong place, no matter what is going on in the rest of the world," said Abramo. With nearly 60 million tourists visiting New York City annually, many of them Americans who are not suffering from the effects of currency fluctuations, Cartier is positioning itself for growth in one of its leading markets. "With this mansion it now gives clients an additional reason to visit us."