By  on March 9, 2007

MILAN — As part of the global expansion of the A|X Armani Exchange brand, the Armani Group said Thursday it will open three stores in Japan this year.

Two units will open this month at the Otakanomori Shopping Center in Chiba Prefecture and at the LaLaport Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture. In September, a flagship will open at Park Way-SQ'1 in the Shibuya district of Tokyo.

"Tokyo is rightly considered to be one of the most innovative and trendsetting cities for the A|X generation of consumers," Giorgio Armani said in a statement. "It has therefore been one of my longtime desires to open my first A|X stores there. In the coming years, I believe that A|X Armani Exchange has the potential to become one of the world's strongest youth fashion brands and the launch in Japan will undoubtedly help us to realize this."

Armani and Como Holdings Ltd., controlled by billionaires Christina Ong and her husband, Ong Beng Seng, formed a joint venture company in 2005 called Presidio Holdings Ltd. for the management and expansion of the A|X Armani Exchange brand outside the U.S. The venture plans to tap new markets such as Japan, China, South America and the U.K. Last year, the brand opened stores in the Middle East and South America, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Christina Ong, chief executive of Como Holdings Ltd., which owns 75 percent of Presidio Holdings, said in the statement, "Japan is an ideal market for Armani Exchange. Tokyo is an energetic and vibrant city teeming with fashion-minded young people, a perfect place for the Armani Exchange brand and lifestyle."

A|X Armani Exchange was launched in 1991 and Presidio plans to expand its product categories to include accessories, fragrances and watches. Last year, the company inked a licensing agreement with Safilo to produce a branded eyewear collection. A|X projects an 85 percent increase in revenues from $300 million at the end of 2005 to $550 million at the end of next year, opening 95 stores worldwide.

The Otakanomori A|X store, covering 4,155 square feet, will be located on the first level in a new, centrally located shopping center. The LaLaport Yokohama A|X store will cover 3,700 square feet and will be located on the second level of the new LaLaport Yokohama Shopping Mall, one of the largest in Japan with more than 300 stores.A|X Armani Exchange counts a total of 115 freestanding stores.

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