BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Journal Staff

Hawes

If anybody should know the prospects for the regional retail industry it would be Richard Hawes, managing director of the Gemkell Group of Companies.

Gemkell was incorporated in January 2004 and had steadily maintained a market presence for its brands and appeal to tourists — until COVID hit. 

Gemkell’s basket of brands is currently spread into three islands. In Guam, the group has Balenciaga, Chloe and Givenchy brands at Tumon Sands Plaza. The group also has Marc Jacobs, Kenzo, Langchamp, Le Sports Sac and Balenciaga brands at The Plaza.

There is also a Lacoste store at the Micronesia Mall.

In April in Guam for the nine stores, 4% of Gemkell’s sales was from the Korean market. In June the percentage of sales from the Korean market rose to 74%.

“We have been doing quite well with the local market,” Hawes said. In June, Marc Jacobs sales reflected 20% of sales from the Korean market and 80% coming from the local market. “That just shows you how strong the market is coming back — and that’s without any Japanese,” he said. “We’re about halfway of where we were in 2019, pre-COVID in terms of sales level.” As a forecast, Hawes said, “We’re trying to be a little conservative, but maybe by 2003 we’ll have maybe 70% and by the end of 2023 for Gemkell, we think our sales will be at the 2019 level.”

Hawes said he has 100% confidence in the return of the market “to the point where we’re going to be building a brand-new Balenciaga flagship store.” The store is already being designed and will be at the Plaza. “We’re doubling the size of the existing store; it’s going to be almost, 2,000 square feet with a two-story façade covering three bays.” The façade facing Pale San Vitores Road will be striking in size, he said.

The Balenciaga store is anticipated to open in the first quarter of 2023. “It’s going to be over $1 million in investment,” Hawes said.

Aside from the current Balenciaga store, the expansion will take the Marc Jacobs space also. “And because we’re moving Marc Jacobs, we’ll have to build a new Marc Jacobs store,” he said. The expansion will take Genkell staff to about 50.

Importantly, he said, “The confidence we have in the brands, the brand have in us, because they’ve signed new franchise agreements with us for all of our stores — particularly the main four — Chloe, Givenchy, Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs. They believe in Guam as a travel retail destination.”

One of Gemkell’s brands is Balenciaga. This store is at Tumon Sands Plaza.
Photo courtesy of Gemkell Group of Companies

Hawes said he has received help. “I want to give a shout out to Will Edwards and the whole Plaza management, who have collaborated with us to do this expansion. They financially supported us.”

All of Gemkell’s landlords have been supportive he said, as has Tan Holdings.  Gemkell has been majority owned by the Tan Holdings Group since September 2014.

“If they didn’t believe in the long-term future, they wouldn’t be supporting the expansion,” Hawes said.

Brands have left the Guam and regional market. Louis Vuitton has a presence at the T Galleria by DFS, but closed its store at Tumon Sands Plaza. Brands that have quit Guam include Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Furla, and Bally. Some closed due to the pandemic, but for others, Hawes said, “It’s not that they didn’t make money,” he said. “Strategically they didn’t want to be in a travel retail environment.

In Saipan the group has reopened Kenzo and Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga is opening. Givenchy and Chloe are also tenants at the Arc Building, next to DFS on Beach Road.

Angie Saad is the Gemkell general manager for Saipan.

In Hawaii Gemkell has Le Sports Sac stores at both the Ala Moana Center and one at the Royal Hawaiian Resort. “We’re looking to open a Chloe store in Hawaii,” Hawes said. mbj