By  on January 8, 2009

Benetton plans to reopen 10 stores in Tehran, Iran, that were shut because of angry crowds protesting Israel’s military action in Gaza.

The Italian sportswear label experienced the wrath on Dec. 31, when demonstrators set fire to one of its stores in northern Tehran. Local authorities have speculated that the company was targeted for being “a famous Western brand,” said Federico Sartor, head of communications for the Benetton Group.

Although the location did not suffer “a huge amount of damage,” the windows and front door were broken and there was smoke damage, he said. Unlike the brand’s other nine shops in the city that will open Saturday, the damaged store will not relaunch for a few weeks. Benetton has a total of 20 stores in Iran.

“The authorities advised us to keep our stores closed for one week because this week there will be a funeral for an old local political leader,” Sartor said. “They thought that situation would lead to more demonstrations.”

Sartor noted that Benetton has faced controversy over the years, largely because of its edgy advertising campaigns, and that has increased as it has branched out into more countries. There are about 5,800 Benetton stores worldwide.

“I don’t want to say this is normal, but it’s been part of the life of the company for 40 years,” he said. “Now that Benetton is sold in 120 countries, it can happen.”

However, the latest incident will not change the company’s strategy to launch units in Iran. “For sure, we will open more stores there,” Sartor said.

In addition, Benetton is going forward with Designing in Tehran, an international contest for designers and architects to design two multistory buildings in the city. “We have received a lot of interest from around the world,” Sartor said.

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