By  on August 2, 2007

PARIS — Hong Kong retailer Lane Crawford is charging into Mainland China.

The firm on Thursday revealed plans to open "several" wholly owned stores in key Chinese cities over the next five years, beginning with an 80,000-square-foot unit in Beijing's new Seasons Place mall.

That store, which Lane Crawford said involves an investment of 300 million Hong Kong dollars, or $38 million at current exchange, is slated to open in October. It will feature some 600 brands, including Prada, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Maison Martin Margiela.

Jennifer Woo, the retailer's president, said other cities targeted for openings include Shanghai and Macao.

The Beijing store, designed by the Yabu Pushelberg architectural firm, features a towering multimedia wall and an undulating glass facade.

"We have conducted extensive market research, and with the ever-increasing number of high-net-worth individuals and affluent customers supported by an aspirational market of approximately 4 million in Beijing, we believe there are exciting opportunities for Lane Crawford in this market," said Woo.

Lane Crawford's move into China comes as international retailers look for new markets in which to expand.

France's Galeries Lafayette is working on a store in Dubai, and is also studying the possibility of opening in China. Harvey Nichols has already opened in the Middle East, Istanbul and Hong Kong. It plans to open a store in Jakarta, Indonesia, next year. Saks Fifth Avenue, which also runs stores in the Middle East, is working on a unit in Shanghai.

With the Summer Olympics scheduled for Beijing next year, retailers anticipate a surge in visibility and spending.

"Our research shows that there is a Beijing customer with a desire to differentiate themselves," said Woo. "The China fashion customer is one of the most sophisticated and brand-savvy in the world today."

As part of the new expansion plan, Lane Crawford said it discontinued its former license and franchise operations in China's Shanghai, Hangzhou and Harbin.

Lane Crawford operates more than 450 stores in 46 markets across Asia, including its namesake stores, Joyce Boutique and Imaginex.

On Thursday, Lane Crawford also said same-store sales for its fiscal year, which ended in March, advanced 23 percent. It did not provide further details.

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