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Ricky’s Edge


Nostalgia may show up here and there in the merchandise mix at Ricky’s NYC, but it doesn’t influence its real estate strategies one bit.

There are no historic downtown sites for this 23-store chain of edgy, offbeat emporiums, which bills itself as a one-stop shop for everything beauty and is known for its funky, off-beat attitude. The Manhattan-based retailer, whose merchandise runs the gamut from nostalgic sundries such as Manic Panic hair color to uber-current makeup brands to fun novelty items, picks only locations with a hip vibe. Its stores, ranging from 1,800 sq. ft. to 7,000 sq. ft., play best with trendy, youthful women who keep up with latest beauty trends and stylings.

Co-founded by brothers Ricky Kenig and Todd Kenig, and their cousin Dominick Costello, co-chairman, CEO and president, respectively, Ricky’s NYC opened its first unit in 1988 and today has locations throughout New York (including East Hampton, Long Island) and in Miami, with plans ultimately to grow nationwide.

“Our ‘ideal location hit list’ is Los Angeles, of course, and San Francisco; Boston; Washington, D.C.; and downtown Chicago,” said Todd Kenig. “But because of the economy we will expand closer to home for the time being, opening three-to-five stores a year in New York City’s boroughs, on Long Island and in New Jersey and Philadelphia. We will look at sites within a two- to three-hour drive time.”

Ricky’s NYC site-selection criteria is fairly standard—good visibility and 25 to 30 feet of window frontage, a dense trade area populated by plenty of youth-oriented, hip women and decent foot traffic. But its method for testing a location’s viability is decidedly non-standard: The location must be able to support a Halloween store. That’s because Ricky’s transforms itself into a Halloween paradise for the entire month of October, becoming the go-to place for all manner of costumes and accessories, from wigs to black tooth wax. And a temporary, seasonal version of the concept has proven a reliable indicator of future success.

“If we think an area or a location has possibilities, we’ll put a temporary Halloween store there,” Kenig explained. “If the temp store works, we’re more apt to try and make a deal for a permanent Ricky’s NYC there.”

In 2008, Ricky’s completed two deals with the off-beat formula (one on the campus of Columbia University) and walked away from five.

It turns out that Ricky’s regular customer is virtually the same woman who shops its stores for Halloween costumes. “We’re generally dubious about a location that draws mostly moms with babies or older residents, because that’s not our audience,” said Kenig. “The centers that work for us have a hip vibe, with other hip retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie.”

Though Ricky’s is staying close to home for now, the chain isn’t feeling pressured to pay exorbitant New York rents. According to Kenig, they used to push hard for $100/foot deals in Manhattan, but since the downturn that figure has dropped. “We don’t want to pay more than $75 a foot in Manhattan, and we don’t have any reason to,” Kenig said. “And, outside of New York, we look at deals that offer a couple of years free rent.”

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