Sir Philip, as most people call him, has long set his sights on further American growth. Last winter he was in New York to view storefronts on Madison Avenue when a friend convinced him to detour his plane, which was headed to Los Angeles, to see a potential site on Michigan Avenue. It was all wrong: “It’s funny, as a retailer, there could be a store available there and one there, and for some reason the eye line is better on one side than the other,” he explains. He passed on the site, then found another nearby, but the deal fell through. However, “about six weeks later, the Borders situation evolved,” Sir Philip says of the bookstore’s announcement that it was shuttering its Michigan Avenue flagship. In addition, several other retailers confided to him that Chicago has their top-three best-performing stores in the US. Sir Philip prides himself on gut decisions, and Chicago finally felt right.

Like his decision to go big in Chicago, everything in Sir Philip’s world is done with a flourish—it was fun to watch during dinner as he took phone calls from two identical cell phones. On one, he was elated to learn that another major US retail site, in Las Vegas, had been acquired for an opening next spring; on the other, he was trying to juggle attending two weddings on the same weekend. (They were the weddings of Monaco’s Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock and that of his close friend Kate Moss. The challenge was finding a spot to land his helicopter near Moss’ house in the English countryside.)

Even though he’s had such success abroad, Sir Philip is cautious about assuming that the chain’s popularity in the UK translates to America.

“There’s no point in being naïve; shopping is so easy for everybody, you don’t actually have to leave your house,” explains Sir Philip. “The theater, the service, what else you can do is really key.”

And for Chicagoans, that’s the most exciting part: We’ll soon find out the grand plans Sir Philip has in store for us this fall.

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