NYC Insider with Marigay McKee | Walpole’s 2019 US Trade and Press Delegation

Ahead of Walpole’s third-annual US Trade and Press Delegation to New York City in October, we spoke with legendary retail entrepreneur (and adopted New Yorker) Marigay McKee about how she’s supporting the delegation, what the future looks like for British luxury brands in the market, and her top tips for those visiting the City that Never Sleeps.

British-born retail entrepreneur Marigay McKee began her career as an executive at Estée Lauder Europe, then became a beauty buyer at Harrods, working her way up to chief merchant at the iconic luxury store. In 2013, Marigay moved to New York City as president of Saks Fifth Avenue. In 2015 Marigay departed Saks to focus on her advisory firm MM Luxe Consulting, before co-founding Fernbrook Management in 2016.

MM Luxe Consulting is a Manhattan-located strategic retail advisory firm, specializing in real estate development  and large scale retail brand projects. Clients like Related (Hudson Yards), Blackstone (Retail division) and Value Retail (in Europe and Asia)  are on retainer for retail projects and business development. Fernbrook is an early stage venture fund focused on consumer tech. Located in Manhattan and with an office in San Francisco, it has 26 emerging brands in its growing portfolio and is always looking for new scalable concepts, brands and founders. McKee is a co founder since 2016 and co managing partner with Bill Detwiler.

How will you be supporting the Walpole Trade Delegation to the US?

I will be hosting a panel or talk on doing business in the US with a focus on digital as the future of retail, and physical as the future of brand. The mix of technology and humanity is a big component of growth today, alongside the evolution of direct-to-consumer brands into bricks and mortar.

Why is the US, and NYC in particular, such an important market for luxury?

The US is still the largest market for luxury globally and its network of department stores (Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks, Newman’s, Nordstrom and others), independents and digital platforms is well evolved to help smaller and international brands evolve in new geographies. There are 10 key cities for retail in the US that represent 80/90 per cent of the opportunity.

What do you see as the future for luxury brands in the US (and internationally)?

The future for luxury is good if the positioning platform and the brand aesthetic is robust and tailored to the US consumer. A good digital presence helps, as does great service and back-of-house processes to deliver and meet customer expectations.

What is your top tip for luxury brands breaking into the market?

Always do your research as it can be an expensive place for mistakes, especially where leases or committed real estate are concerned. Pop ups are a good way to start to test the water.

Top NYC locations this year:

My favorite bar is Majorelle in the Lowell Hotel on 63rd. The front bar is great but the Library Bar is uber chic and resembles a NYC townhouse.

My favorite restaurant is Fleming on 62nd (sister restaurant to the Bilboquet) the ceilings and tables are soundproofed (yes, really) so you can have meaningful conversation at supper!

In terms of new hotels, the Equinox Hotel at Hudson Yards is great. Super rooftop pool overlooking the Vessel, great Stephen Starr restaurant and the chicest Equinox and SoulCycle fitness locations ever…

Walpole brands are invited to join us in New York – the world’s most important market for luxury – for our three-day Trade and Press Delegation in October. With a packed calendar of insight events, networking parties and business meetings culminating in the British Luxury Press Show Room, this is an unrivalled opportunity to make your mark Stateside. Please email Stephanie Robinson for more information or click here to read more about this year’s programme: Walpole Trade Delegation New York 2019