Crown’s Virginia Pittarelli on Sephora, the Vitamin Shoppe and the Shrinking Store


Virginia Pittarelli, who goes by Ginny, has been a principal of Crown Retail Services, an affiliate of Crown Acquisitions, for the last five years since leaving Madison Retail Services. The tenant rep broker has a client roster including Sephora, Kate Spade, the Vitamin Shop and Godiva.

Commercial Observer caught up with the Brooklyn native yesterday over a seafood lunch at Le Goeland while on break at MAPIC Cannes to talk about her clients and the retail landscape in New York City.

SEE ALSO: WeWork Ditches Big Gas Company Tower Lease in Downtown L.A.

I know that Sephora is launching a smaller-store concept in the tri-state area. Can you tell us about it?

I can’t comment on that.

How big are Sephora stores traditionally?

Approximately 6,000 square feet.

Anything new you can tell us about Sephora?

The way they married the Internet sales with bricks and mortar is one of the most innovative ways to do it. I think they are leaders in that. [For example,] they have an app where you can try on different color lipsticks. You can see what shades look good and you go in and buy [them]. They also educate the consumer on how to apply makeup, and there’s one for the skin as well. They have a [computer program] that teaches you how to blend foundation.

Are any of your other clients launching new concepts?

The Vitamin Shoppe has a new concept for their stores. They will educate the consumers on the vitamins.

Will this be incorporated into existing stores?

If they are of the right size. They would have to be at least 1,500 square feet. It will be an information center in the center of the store.

When will these centers debut?

Next year.

There is a move toward scaling back retail shops. Who is the ideal tenant to do downsize?

Retailers that have a view toward editing their merchandise to create a smaller concept.

So, conscious tenants.

It takes a conscious strategic plan on their part. What happened with Manhattan when the rents began to escalate a few years ago, there were no big-box formats. The first one was Bed Bath & Beyond on Sixth Avenue. What evolved out of that was multi-level retail. That’s how the big-box guys open in New York, which allows them to blend the per-foot rent. That’s how Manhattan got big retail players.

The topic of MAPIC this year is O2O, or Online-to-Offline. Do you think physical stores will disappear?

I don’t think so. Retailers are putting in plans to connect online to offline. I think there is a way to coexist. I know there is a way to coexist. That’s what’s everyone’s working on. I think store size may change, and they will bring technology into the store. Customer service will always be first and foremost, and really that is conveyed in the stores. Fashion, accessories, jewelry—you need to try them on, touch them, see the quality. You will always need an in-store experience supported by technology.