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Pirch Slips From Its Perch

Pirch, the ultra-premium kitchen, bath and appliance chain, is retrenching after nearly a decade of aggressive growth.

The business, widely lauded for its 10 high-touch luxury showrooms, has closed its latest, which opened last May in Austin, Texas, and plans to shut four more locales — Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Paramus, N.J. — by month’s end.

At that point the privately held company will fall back to its four remaining California stores, while the fate of its much-ballyhooed, three-story SoHo showroom in downtown Manhattan hangs in the balance.

According to a source familiar with the restructuring, the breakthrough retail concept continues to perform well within its original West Coast markets of San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County and Palm Springs, but failed to translate to other parts of the country.

The stores, which feature over a dozen live kitchen vignettes, barista stations and on-site chefs serving up fresh-cooked meals, proved unprofitable in the newer markets, where Pirch failed to connect with its traditional trade customers, the source suggested.

Indeed, the decision to draw a consumer crowd by locating in pricy, upscale shopping malls may have cut the company off from local builders, architects, decorators and designers who were unfamiliar with the chain and more accustomed to doing business in dedicated merchandise marts and design hubs.

A company spokesperson confirmed that “Pirch has made the strategic decision to re-focus its footprint and pace of expansion.”

“Our California stores are performing well and we remain focused on growth in this region,” the spokesperson told TWICE, while “in other regions, Pirch is currently in discussions with landlords and has begun the process of closing certain locations that have not met our expectations.”

The shuttered stores will maintain back office operations through Nov. 30, and all customer orders will be fulfilled by Pirch’s West Coast facilities.

The company is currently weighing its options for the SoHo site, which could include staff reductions and a new trade-focused business model, and is in negotiations with its landlord, the source said.

The San Diego-based business was co-founded nine years ago by former builder-channel supplier and outdoor grill merchant Jeffery Sears and his partner Jim Stuart, who filled their showrooms with luxury kitchen and bath products including super-premium majap brands like Aga, Bertazzoni, Bosch, Jenn-Air, La Cornue, Lynx, Miele, Sub-Zero/Wolf and Thermador.

Customers could enjoy a gourmet meal topped off with a cappuccino; book private time in the bath section to test the working showerheads au natural; and demo the commode assortment up close and personal in the restrooms. Taken together, the product demos and highly assisted sales floor created what the company once described as “a sensory tour de force.”

It also ranked 18th on TWICE’s Top 50 Major Appliance Retailers Report, with reported whitegoods sales of $183 million last year.

Sears and Stuart have since left the company, which is now run by former Oakley president Andrea Dorigo and a board of directors that includes representation by investor L Catterton, a consumer-focused private-equity firm whose portfolio also included Restoration Hardware.

“We remain confident that our unique business model will be successful on a more focused scale and we are committed to delivering on our founding mission of providing customers exciting new ways to shop for the home through our innovative multi-brand immersion experience,” the spokesperson said.