By  on November 14, 2005

BEIJING — Even by China standards, Salvatore Ferragamo SpA is on a roll on the mainland.

Ferragamo, which has been in the Chinese market for a decade, has had a 38 percent upswing in sales in the Asian giant in the first half of 2005 alone, 48 percent if newly opened stores are factored in. Ferragamo plans to have 30 mainland China stores by the end of this year, with seven new ones added this year, and will add another six in 2006.

"One-third of our new stores worldwide are in China," said Ferrucio Ferragamo, the company's chief executive officer.

Unlike most international brands, Ferragamo considers piracy and distribution as smaller challenges in China than managing its growing sales network and maintaining a high brand profile.

Ferrucio Ferragamo joined other company executives, including vice president Fulvia Ferragamo, Holdings vice president Giovanna Ferragamo and the head of women's leather goods, James Ferragamo, in Beijing late last month for a gala party and show of the company's spring 2006 collection. Held in the Taimiao Ancestral Temple section of the Forbidden City, the party was described as the capital's best bash of the year, and was attended by Hong Kong film stars such as Tony Leung, Karen Mok and Gigi Leung.

"I was last in Beijing one year ago, and Shanghai six months ago," said Ferrucio Ferragamo. "China is fantastic, there are not words to say how it is moving, accomplishing ... There is such a big future, opportunity."

The main change he has witnessed is that "the consumers are becoming sophisticated. They know what they want, don't wait for suggestions, but know what they like, so we don't have to propose ideas to them. Plus, the number of consumers is growing tremendously."

"China is more of a men's market; men spend more here," observed Asia-Pacific manager Raymond de Malherbe. He specified that in mainland China, men's wear constitutes 45 percent of Ferragamo's sales, while shoes represent 40 percent, which parallels their global trend. Ferragamo, however, estimated that the breakdown of men's to women's wear sales in the company's China shops is one to three. De Malherbe added that its male clients are businessmen and entrepreneurs aged 35 and up, while women's wear attracts "fashionable young ladies" starting at age 25.

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