By  on August 26, 2008

DALLAS — Streetwear brand Ed Hardy is marching to a different drummer — expanding when many retailers are scaling back during the economic slowdown.

The label opened its 13th U.S. store — and 10th in the last year — last month at upscale NorthPark Center here and more are in the pipeline this year and in 2009, said Philip Del Rio, director of stores.

The growth is propelled by demand for the brand’s bright and graphic tattoo art-inspired apparel, accessories, shoes and other items. “Our customers tend to be collectors,” Del Rio said. “They like to have the newest and buy in multiples.”

At least 50 people lined up outside the 1,500-square-foot NorthPark Center boutique to attend the two-hour opening party and to shop. Waiters offered coconut-crusted shrimp to the people in the queue, many of whom were wearing Ed Hardy T-shirts and dresses.

Ed Hardy had only three domestic stores in New York and Los Angeles when Del Rio joined the company in April 2007.

“The flagships were intended to represent the brand,” he said. “Because they were so successful, we started rapidly expanding in ’08.”

New stores are to open this year on Newbury Street in Boston; The Galleria in Houston; the Fashion Show in Las Vegas; Roosevelt Field in Garden City, N.Y.; The Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif.; King of Prussia, Pa.; Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

Next year, the firm plans to launch at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J.; Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.; Tysons Corner, Va.; The Domain in Austin, Tex.; Chicago, San Diego, and an outlet in Las Vegas.

Offering clothing and accessories for both sexes ages two months to 70, the label was launched in 2004 when designer Christian Audigier bought the rights to designs by California tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy. Audigier is sole owner of the parent company, Nervous Tattoo.

Besides Ed Hardy, Nervous Tattoo’s two biggest labels are Christian Audigier, which is a slightly higher price point, and Smet, inspired by French rocker Johnny Halliday. The company also promotes Crystal Rock by Audigier’s teenage daughter, Crystal, and several fall launches are planned, said Raelyn Hennessee, retail director of marketing.

The brand’s volume is projected to rise to $225 million this year from $100 million in 2007, Del Rio said, partially because the firm added 300 Macy’s doors over the last year. The Ed Hardy stores generate sales of $2,000 to $3,000 a square foot.

The Dallas unit stocks Ed Hardy, which retails from $55 to $180, and Christian Audigier, priced from $95 to $280. Both labels feature layered silk-screen graphics and crystal embellishment on everything from trucker caps to hoodies, jeans and sneakers.

All the stores feature tattoo murals, but each unit has a slightly different decor. The Dallas store is brightly lit with tomato red and white walls and an imposing 3-D wall-mounted tiger head with spike whiskers. Ed Hardy is set to unveil a moodier prototype in Glendale on Saturday.

The company has three stores in Paris under the brands Ed Hardy, Christian Audigier and Smet, plus 36 franchised stores worldwide. Wholesale distribution is broad, including Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Bloomingdale’s, 300 units of Macy’s and hundreds of independent retailers.

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