LOS ANGELES — Rabeanco is playing to its strengths with its launch strategy in the U.S.
The Hong Kong-based accessories brand is starting retail in the U.S. this year with three stores in California, where there is a concentration of Asian shoppers. The first store opened Wednesday at the Westfield Santa Anita shopping center in Arcadia; the second one will bow in late August on North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, and the third, at Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, will join the store roster by mid-November. The stores’ sizes range from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.
“Where there is a rich Asian heritage would probably be a good entry for us because many of them [Asians and Asian-American shoppers] know of the brand. Those who travel to Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Korea or Singapore would have seen our brand,” said Elaine Sugimura, president and chief executive officer of Rabeanco USA. “We don’t do a heavy amount of advertising. We have been successful with a growth strategy across the world that depends on the local customer coming in and finding us.”
Rabeanco tapped Sugimura, whose career in the fashion industry spans more than 25 years and includes stints as the president and ceo of Havaianas USA and the president and ceo of Spiegel parent Artemiss LLC, as a consultant in July 2012 to explore the American market. She assumed the U.S. president and ceo post in January to lead its efforts here.
Sugimura brought in Kevin Frain, formerly chief financial officer and senior vice president of operations at Artemiss and executive vice president of e-commerce at Barnes & Noble, to be Rabeanco USA’s cfo and head of e-commerce. Both Sugimura and Frain are partners in Rabeanco and sit on its board.
“Rabeanco is at the point in the business that they are ready to go the next level in terms of expansion,” said Sugimura. “We are doing well and have had strong increases around the world, and have decided to grow the business around the world.”
Rabeanco broke into retail in 2004, and since then, the company noted, it has registered average annual growth of 30 percent. Today, Rabeanco has 23 wholly owned stores and 50 in-store shops in 16 countries. The brand introduced e-commerce in the U.S. earlier this year.
Rabeanco’s roots date back to the Eighties when Hong Kong native Raymond Ng and Italian handbag specialist Guy Fibigio founded a men’s leather goods business. In 1993, Fibigio sold his shares to Ng, and Ng’s brother Andrew Ng and wife Bella Dan, who is Rabeanco’s creative director, joined him in the business, which was transformed into a women’s brand. The brand moniker Rabeanco contains letters from the names Raymond, Bella and Andrew.
In terms of geography, Hong Kong, where the brand has 15 stores, represents the top volume generator for Rabeanco with Taiwan second, according to Sugimura, but Rabeanco is keen to diversify its bases of revenue. The brand launched in the U.K. with a flagship in Covent Garden in 2011 and plans to open a store in Amsterdam in spring 2014. The U.S. is viewed as a major opportunity. “The main objective is that the U.S. as well as China become anchors for the organization because of their sheer mass and consumer spend,” said Sugimura.
In 2014, Sugimura said, another three to four Rabeanco stores are expected to open in the U.S. That expansion could come from one or two more units in California, and Vancouver is a possible destination as well, a city that would adhere to Rabeanco’s strategy of sticking to locations with ties to the Asia-Pacific region. Rabeanco is also considering opening a store in New York’s SoHo.
Designed by Japanese architect Yukiharu Takematsu and Dan, the Rabeanco stores have a clean, modern feel. At Westfield Santa Anita, Sugimura highlighted a large marble door and chrome fixtures inlaid with white marble. Shoppers are introduced to new, trendy or editorial items at the front, while they are immersed in classic styles that have been in the assortment six to 10 years as they wander through the rest of the store. Mini bags and other small accessories are displayed in a colorful plated-glass fixture with a concrete backing.
Rabeanco stores expose customers to the brand’s expansive offerings of different shades, materials, price points and accessory shapes. The inventory turns nine to 11 times a year. The sweet spot for Rabeanco handbag prices is from $300 to $350, and small leather goods are mostly priced from $58 to $200. Sugimura estimated handbags constitute about 70 percent of sales in the stores. In the U.S., she figured that Michael Kors and Marc by Marc Jacobs are Rabeanco’s main competitors.