By  on October 24, 2008

PARIS — It’s already looking like Bleecker Street, part deux.

Twin Marc by Marc Jacobs stores — the first in France — opened here this week on the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, with a steady flow of young hipsters suggesting the American designer’s retail concept needs no translation.

“I think it’s going to be as successful as our stores on Bleecker Street, and they are very, very successful stores — some of the highest sales per square foot in retail,” said Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs International, interviewed in the shadow of a giant swan paddleboat loaded with quilted tote bags. “It sort of solidifies what we are to a broader audience.”

He noted that the Marc by Marc women’s, men’s and “special items” stores in Manhattan’s West Village shift an average of 4,000 units a day.

The company-owned units in Paris, a 1,500-square-foot women’s store and a 600-square-foot men’s boutique, are situated in the corner of an ultramodern square with retail neighbors like Comme des Garçons Fragrance and American Apparel, all just a block away from the luxury shops on Rue Saint-Honoré.

Duffy said the brand, sold in French department stores such as Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché, already has a cult following in France, and word of mouth — rather than a glitzy opening event or advertising blitz — would drive traffic and business. “[Customers] love our company; they love our Web site. We have people who work in the company who have fans,” he noted. Indeed, the large-scale images of attractive young people dotted throughout the shops — some scantily attired — are employees.

Duffy said roughly 80 percent of the products for sale are exclusive to the Paris stores, including knit berets, Paris-logo rubber boots, swimsuits, costume jewelry, small leather goods and certain party dresses and fragrances. Two-tiered racks of ready-to-wear — a mix of winter and resort styles — line several walls, with all manner of accessories, art books and gadgets rounding out the selection.

Jacobs has stepped up his international retail rollout, with the Paris units among the 45 slated for this year. The majority of the company’s 200 stores are for the Marc by Marc Jacobs brand. Duffy allowed that business at the two-year-old Collection store in nearby Palais Royal is “flat,” but he characterized the Marc by Marc stores — with items starting at 1 euro and stock rotating monthly — as “recession proof.”

In fact, he said he hopes to ultimately expand on the square and open additional units for children’s wear and accessories.

“I’ll build it up like I did Bleecker,” he said, noting that demand at the men’s shop, already open three days, has been particularly robust, with items like colorful Stinky Rat T-shirts and jeans among the brisk sellers.

Duffy said Europe represents roughly 20 percent of the Marc by Marc Jacobs business, with the rest split between America and the Far East.

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