The past 18 months has seen British department stores Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges undergo major refurbishments of their prestige watch and jewellery spaces, with brands shifted around, shipped out and stymied as builders have moved in.
This is an important part of rejuvenating retail space in a highly competitive landscape, but the dangers of insufficient planning and communication with the brands has been highlighted by a lawsuit in New York where Cartier is suing iconic department store Saks Fifth Avenue for loss of business during a major refurbishment project.
The complaint, filed with the Supreme Court in New York, relates to a five year lease signed by Cartier and Saks in 2016 that encouraged the Richemont-owned brand to “invest substantial sums to build out the Cartier location in a manner befitting Cartier’s status as one of the world’s leading and most exclusive luxury brands”.
The renovation work that began this year created “substantial challenges” for Cartier, the complaint continues, including dust and construction debris impacting the health, safety and welfare of Cartier’s employees and reducing customer traffic to the Cartier location.
The court papers suggest that Cartier was offered assurances by Saks that the work would not impact Cartier, and that it was not offered an acceptable alternative location during the construction period.
By breaching the terms of its five year lease, the complaint alleges, “Cartier has been damaged in an amount to be determined at the trial of this action, but believed to be in excess of forty million dollars”.
Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns Saks Fifth Avenue, has not commented on the legal dispute.