Paul Stuart acquired by Japanese licensee

by Harry Sheff

NEW YORK—Luxury retailer Paul Stuart has been acquired by Tokyo-based Mitsui & Co. Ltd., its longtime licensee for the Japanese market. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Paul Stuart CEO Michael Ostrove said in a statement, “I am delighted that we are able to cement and extend our relationship with respected partners of such long standing. Their commitment to Paul Stuart’s quality, integrity and continuity in every way mirrors our own. It is our great good fortune, as we begin our 75th Anniversary year, to be presented this opportunity not only to polish, preserve and enhance our existing position, but to further build and expand our brand in such a positive manner.”

Paul Stuart, which operates three single-branded stores in New York and Chicago, was founded in 1938. Mitsui began importing Paul Stuart goods to Japan in 1975 and became a licensee in 1991. Mitsui sub-licenses Sanyo Shokai Ltd., which, among other things, operates Paul Stuart stores in Aoyama and Ginza in Tokyo and about 100 department store shop-in-shops. Mitsui says that the Paul Stuart brand did about $133 million in sales in the year ending March 31, 2012 in the Japanese market.

Mitsui said in its own statement, “Through the current acquisition, Mitsui will secure access to the brand’s worldwide trademark. This will allow Mitsui to expand its business to a full-scale global brand business. Mitsui also wishes to contribute to the Japanese sub-licensees, by securing the sustainability of the license business in the market, which will result in stabilizing the business base of their license business.”

The Japanese firm has also pledged to “render its utmost effort in conserving the brand’s heritage,” and “elevate the value of the brand.” It plans to grow Japanese license business to by $100 million by 2015.

The first Paul Stuart store was opened by Ralph Ostrove on Madison Avenue in New York. Ostrove named the store after his son. Until now, the retailer has been family operated. For years it was run by Cliff Grodd, Ralph Ostrove’s son-in-law, and Paul Ostrove, the son for whom the store was named. Grodd passed away in 2010.