By  on October 15, 2007

JOHANNESBURG — Cartier will open its first South African boutique this month in this city's Sandton City Mall.

The date is being kept under wraps — perhaps as much for security reasons in this crime-plagued country as for whetting the appetites of status-conscious and jewelry-mad South Africans.

Cartier, which until recently only retailed a limited range of watches and accessories through authorized dealers such as the premium jeweler Charles Grieg, is pulling out all the stops to make the new 2,700-square-foot space a destination store for South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.

"Every product line has been allocated its space, with the biggest space dedicated to jewelry," said Christine Roux, commercial manager of Vendôme, the representative and distributor of Cartier in South Africa.

The company projects that the iconic Cartier products such as the Love and Trinity lines, as well as the Panthère collection, will do well with South African customers.

"Cartier is known for its special style and design of beautiful jewelry, thus there will be something to satisfy the different tastes," Roux said.

The boutique will occupy a corner across from a Louis Vuitton store.

The Sandton Sun & Towers Hotel and the Sandton Convention Center are next to the mall, and customer traffic is heavy. Prominent local jewelers such as Jack Friedman, Shimansky, Lorraine Efune, Charles Grieg and Schwartz also have shops in the mall.

The storefront and interior will bear the signature design of Cartier boutiques worldwide. Since many South African customers already shop overseas, the new boutique will be familiar to them, Roux said.

For some, however, price might be an issue. Import duties in South Africa are high, especially for luxury items. Duties established by the South African Revenue Service run as much as 20 percent, plus a 14 percent value-added tax. Roux stressed that "we will adhere to the Cartier worldwide recommended retail prices — thus the same as in the rest of the world."

For the new La Doña diamond watches, for example, customers can expect to pay about $16,000 for the small model and $22,800 for the large one. Roux said the shop also would sell other watches starting at about $2,900.The 160-year-old luxury house is owned by international conglomerate Richemont, which has roots in South Africa. The business empire was built by the late South African tycoon Anton Rupert from the spin-off of international assets owned by the Rembrandt Group Ltd. of South Africa. Now known as Remgro Ltd., the group, established in the Forties, owned significant interests in the tobacco, financial services, wines and spirits and gold and diamond mining industries, as well as the luxury goods investments that, along with the investment in Rothmans International, would form Richemont.

In addition to Cartier, a wholly owned subsidiary, the brands in Richemont's luxury portfolio include Panerai, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chloé.

Roux said a South African flagship was long overdue, but "we had to find the right location, which has taken some time to find." She added that Cartier would continue to sell its watches and accessories through authorized dealers as well as at the boutique.

As for jewelry, she said: "Cartier jewelry has always been and will be exclusive to the Cartier boutique — thus the jewelry will be available for the first time in South Africa only through the boutique."

A second store in Cape Town is in the planning stages.

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