“A Better Version Of What It’s Always Stood For”: Ricky’s NYC Brings On Board New President For A Refresh
Ricky’s NYC has a new president who wants to retain the quirkiness that makes it unique.
With a retail career stretching over a quarter century, Lisa Aquilino brings a merchandiser’s eye to the vast array of merchandise at Ricky’s NYC encompassing 35,000-plus stockkeeping units, 720 vendors, and products as diverse as nipple pasties, neon hair dyes and night creams. Before joining the chain as president, she founded consultancy Orontius and spent 18 years at Century 21 Department Stores, most recently as vice president and divisional merchandise manager, ladies apparel.
“I came from an iconic New York brand, and I really love Ricky’s because it’s an iconic New York brand as well,” says Aquilino. “When I worked at Century 21, everyone would tell me how much they loved it and were excited to shop there, and I get the same reaction about Ricky’s from people of all different backgrounds. It’s fun to work for another company that has great appeal in the New York market and beyond it.”
Aquilino’s first priority at Ricky’s NYC is to evaluate what’s been effective – and not so effective – in terms of its design, assortment, layout, marketing and more. Ricky’s NYC is embarking on a refresh, but she vows it’s not shedding signature touches like its toothpaste logo or substantially shrinking its extensive selection.
“Somebody won’t ever walk into Ricky’s and say, ‘This is completely different.’ It will be a better version of what it’s always stood for,” says Aquilino. Discussing the selection, she continues, “There are definitely things we can add on and that can be cut, but, when you think about cutting, I always like to do things surgically and edit slowly, if we are going to edit at all. Once you lose a customer, it’s very hard to get them back, so I want to make changes very strategically.”
“Somebody won’t ever walk into Ricky’s and say, ‘This is completely different.’ It will be a better version of what it’s always stood for.”
Halloween, a crucial sales catalyst for Ricky’s NYC, won’t escape Aquilino’s scrutiny. She will be closely monitoring key metrics during the Halloween season this year to provide guidance on the approach the retailer should take to the holiday.
“Ricky’s used to own the business of Halloween, but, now with all of the e-commerce Halloween sites and pop-up shops, the competition has increased,” says Aquilino. “This year, we will come out of it with important learnings that we apply to next year to see if we want a bigger footprint for Halloween.”
Boosting e-commerce is a priority for Aquilino, too. Ricky’s NYC’s website constitutes a small percentage of its business. Aquilino is considering hiring an e-commerce merchant to give the website the attention she believes it deserves. Aquilino estimates the retailer has 50 employees in its corporate office at the moment.
“To me, it’s the low-hanging fruit,” says Aquilino of e-commerce. “The majority of what we buy for brick-and-mortar is online, but the experience is very flat now. That can happen in companies that didn’t start in e-commerce. It has to be treated like an additional store and really have an independent focus.”
“Ricky’s used to own the business of Halloween, but, now with all of the e-commerce Halloween sites and pop-up shops, the competition has increased. This year, we will come out of it with important learnings that we apply to next year to see if we want a bigger footprint for Halloween.”
Online and offline, the hair category is a strong sales driver for Ricky’s NYC, according Aquilino. She suggests the retailer may amplify its presence in color cosmetics and skincare. “Ricky’s could be an incubator for a lot of the up-and-coming makeup and skincare companies,” says Aquilino. “There are a lot of possibilities, and we can bring excitement to a brand by working in partnership with them and vice versa.”
For the last two years, Ricky’s NYC has been adjusting its retail real estate portfolio. It moved a store on 14th street to Broadway, and closed units on 14th and 23rd streets, and 1st Avenue. “It was a sign of some correction and right sizing. A few leases that we had for a long time probably weren’t financially the best leases, and there are better opportunities and better locations out there,” says Aquilino. “It was just a matter of stepping back to take a step forward. Now, we’re in a position where we want to expand whether that’s with pop-up shops or additional brick-and-mortar locations.”
Although she didn’t share numbers, Aquilino describes Ricky’s NYC, which currently has 13 stores, as “doing well” and “a solid brand.” Following in the footsteps of his father, operator of drugstores called Love, Ricky Kenig opened the first Ricky’s NYC in 1989 with his brother Todd, who, by his own account, built the retailer to 28 stores and $55 million in revenues by 2012. Ricky’s NYC is currently controlled by a private owner declining to be named. Prior to Aquilino, the president’s role at Ricky’s NYC was occupied by Michael Long, Dominick Costello and Richard Parrott.
“At this point, we’re looking to forge ahead. I’ve got a great team, and we’re really going to take it to the next level. What exactly that looks like remains to be seen,” says Aquilino. “Is it opening up a bunch of pop-ups, which I’d like to do? We have different ideas for what to do as a company, but we are definitely going to be in growth mode.”