By  on May 11, 1994

BEVERLY HILLS -- The elegant and upscale boutique tucked in a corner of the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel might look as if nothing much is going on there, but don't let that fool you. The Escada shop is expected to do $7.6 million in volume this year, up from $7.2 million, making it the number-two unit behind New York in sales among the company's 12 stores.

Several factors are behind Escada's success here:

The Regent is one of the highest-volume hotels in the Los Angeles area. Guests and those who come for lunch or special functions ring up a lot of business.

Its aggressive sales approach includes packing up the line and taking it wherever a potential sale might be made.

Its customers seem more inclined to purchase complete outfits rather than individual items.

It has an increased outreach to Hollywood -- Shirley MacLaine, Kathy Bates and Deborah Kerr wore the label to the Academy Awards this year.

A special side entrance allows VIP access from a car on a side street, and a special VIP fitting salon is upstairs.

"We've always had a strong Southern California business," said Ron Frasch, president of Escada USA. "The clothes are colorful, and they're appropriate for the lifestyle of Southern California."

The sales figures are impressive, considering the competition from neighboring specialty stores. The Wilshire Boulevard corridor has one of the highest concentrations of Escada in the country, with the line featured in I. Magnin, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in addition to its own boutique.

Gilbert Rebillet, vice president and general manager of retail operations for Escada USA, insisted the store does not take business away from its larger specialty store accounts.

"It does hurt [the specialty store business] a little the first season or two, but in a short period of time, people go back," Rebillet said. "What we do is enlarge the customer base."

Joseph Cicio, chairman and chief executive officer of I. Magnin, said its Escada business is strong in Beverly Hills, despite the competition. Sources said spring sales of Escada are 8 percent ahead of last year at Magnin's. Rebillet also cited Escada's location in the Regent lobby as a reason the shop has thrived amid a recession, fires, earthquakes and other California phenomena.

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