By  on January 29, 2009

Anthropologie on Friday said it has signed leases for its first two European stores, an 8,000-square-foot unit at 131-141 King’s Road, and an 11,000-square-foot store at 158 Regent Street, both in London. The stores will open in late 2009 and early 2010, respectively.

In an interview, James Bidwell, who was finishing his second week as managing director of Anthropologie Europe, said the locations are about three or four miles apart and “in very different areas demographically.”

Anthropologie is taking over the famed antiques market Antiquarius at 131-141 Kings Road, famous in the Seventies and now one of London’s primary shopping streets, with stores ranging from Vivienne Westwood to LK Bennett, Marks & Spencer to Peter Jones.

“It’s more of a residential area,” Bidwell said of the street. “It’s the one road that has that kind of resonance of being kind of a cool road. It’s reinvented itself over the years. It’s a very international road.

“A lot of the original elements will come through in our design,” Bidwell said. “The idea is to keep the essence of the building. It’s a really big space that was once a gentleman’s club where billiards and pool were played.”

The Regent Street store will serve as something of a billboard for Anthropologie. “As we launch in Europe, it’s a space that will be seen by a lot of people traveling through London,” Bidwell said. “It will be a very visible store.”

Regent Street — home to stores such as Aquascutum and French Connection — has a strong British royal heritage, Bidwell said. “Buildings on the street are owned by the Crown Estate, holder of the queen’s property,” he said. “They’ve created a mix that’s very powerful. The first Apple store and first National Geographic store opened on Regent Street, and a Ferrari store is coming.”

Bidwell declined to give sales projections for the two stores.

Anthropologie, the slightly more grown-up and sophisticated sister of Urban Outfitters, is venturing overseas a decade after Urban planted roots in Europe. Urban now operates 14 units in the U.K., Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden.

Bidwell said he had a list of 20 places in Europe where he’d like to open stores, but the U.K. economic environment is volatile at the moment. “Circumstances changed a lot,” he explained. “We’ll be pragmatic and opportunistic. The U.K. economy is definitely suffering. Europe is under a lot of pressure financially, what with a massive banking crisis and real estate devaluation. What’s great about Anthropologie is that we’re in a great position to go into Europe despite the economic environment. We’re hiring a local buying team. I’m proactively looking for people in fashion and home.”

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