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.Besides the natural audience of hotel guests, the company makes sure any Escada customer in need gets the line, even if it means packing the collection and delivering it in person.

"If a customer calls from a hotel 50 miles away, we will take the collection and a seamstress and travel there," Rebillet said. Jeanne Roderick, the store's manager, added, "When we don't pack up the rolling racks, we pack up a box and will ship it anywhere around the globe. We've sent boxes to Taiwan, Mexico City and Canada."

The store is making several changes that are expected to keep sales moving briskly. It recently moved the 500-square-foot shoe area to a more prominent spot at the front of the store near the Wilshire Boulevard entrance. It was in the back of the boutique. This could help ring up $400,000 for shoes in the next 12 months, up from $224,000 in the past year.

In October, Escada will launch Escada Sport, a lower-priced casual sportswear line that Rebillet said is ideal for the Southern California lifestyle, with denim jeans, T-shirts and other casual items. Rebillet projected first-year sales at $1 million.

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