By  on April 15, 2008

DALLAS — De Beers has opened a store at NorthPark Center here, seeking to repeat the performance of the Houston unit that launched in September at the Galleria.

"Houston has exceeded our expectations and budgets....It has an interesting mix of locals and tourists. People come from all over the world to see doctors there," said Hamida Belkadi, chief operating officer of De Beers Diamond Jewelers U.S.

The retail arm of De Beers is operated by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and De Beers SA, the diamond mining giant, which acknowledged in February that it expected economic conditions to affect the U.S. market this year, especially at the lower end. But the economic slowdown has yet to affect the U.S. retail division, which is in its third year of business, Belkadi said.

"Consumers — regardless of economic conditions — still do celebrate special occasions such as engagements, weddings, anniversaries, baby/push presents," Belkadi said. "We have every price point, so that helps. They will maybe buy more cautiously and at lower price points."

Located between Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York, the 1,878-square-foot unit that opened April 1 at NorthPark is De Beers' sixth in the U.S. Four more openings are planned this year, beginning with San Francisco in June followed by Naples, Fla., Costa Mesa, Calif., and Atlanta in the fall.

The store is the first American unit to feature an updated decor with brighter lighting, more use of white and cases that stand on thin legs and can be approached from 360 degrees. The look, designed by Christophe Carpente, was unveiled March 27 at De Beers' 5,425-square-foot flagship in Tokyo's Ginza district. The company also has eight shops-in-shops throughout Japan and plans to expand to 20 doors.

The look "was inspired by diamonds," Belkadi explained. "It is a contemporary reinterpretation of a very classical style."

The Dallas unit carries a full range of bridal jewelry, designer collections and watches ranging in price from $300 to millions, Belkadi said.

The Talisman collection, which features rough diamonds set in 18-karat gold, is the leading seller in all De Beers' U.S. stores, followed by the bridal collection, she said.


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