By  on August 3, 2007

HONG KONG — Pedder Group, the footwear and accessories subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Wharf Group, plans to open stores in Asia, including Christian Louboutin's first freestanding unit in the region and Jimmy Choo's inaugural store in China.

The Louboutin flagship will launch in Hong Kong at the end of September or early October, said Peter Harris, president of Pedder Group.

The designer wants "to develop the business slowly, but logically," Harris said. "So the first opportunity will be to open Hong Kong, then to review its progress and go from there." He added that the store will have a street-front location in the Central district.

Louboutin's recent visit to the city reinforced the decision. "The reception was beyond our expectations in terms of the interest that the customers showed," Harris said. "Christian was here two years ago and in that period the brand developed a much higher profile globally — and that was obvious here.''

Pedder Group will also open the first Jimmy Choo boutique in China — a shop at Plaza 66 in Shanghai, set to make its debut in September. "Jimmy Choo has been a key part of On Pedder's mix in Shanghai for three years," Harris said. The store, which will be located close to the multibrand On Pedder store, provides Pedder Group an opportunity to expand the brand's business in China. "We can really grow the handbag component," Harris said. "Footwear has been the story because of space limitations at On Pedder. This is a very strategic move to grow the brand."

The store's close proximity to On Pedder demonstrates Pedder Group's strategy in securing retail space, particularly in China. In Beijing, for example, the 3,000-square-foot On Pedder unit serves as an anchor on the first floor of the Shin-Kong Mitsukoshi. The Group opened nearby freestanding Stuart Weitzman, Anya Hindmarch and Giuseppe Zanotti stores in May. Each of the shops features its brand's latest concept. In the case of Anya Hindmarch and Stuart Weitzman, the stores were the first of their kind in the world.

Although the stores are grouped close together, each maintains its own identity and separate sales teams. But nearness plays more than one important role. "One, it creates a destination; two, we can control adjacencies, and three, we can profit from a marketing point of view," Harris explained. A similar retail location strategy will be employed in Macau, where Pedder Group is in negotiations to open multiple stores "on the Cotai Strip," he said. The Cotai Strip is where the mammoth new Venetian Hotel and convention center is located.Ten new Pedder Red stores are planned in the coming months. The chain carries moderate-price footwear and accessories under the Pedder Red label. There are 10 Pedder Red shops in the region. Pedder Red will have its own flagship — a 2,000-square-foot space on Wellington Street in Central featuring a concept developed by Shanghai-based architects Neri & Hui, who were involved in the well-regarded Three on the Bund project.

"The new concept will be a catalyst to reconfigure current Pedder stores," said Harris, who noted that the stores will be located across the region, including China. "Of course, the volume of sales in Beijing and Shanghai is not the same as that of Hong Kong or Singapore, where the market is established, but we've seen very steady growth. It's empowering because any efforts put in seem to be rewarded. It's almost immediate."

Pedder Group also plans to open multibrand On Pedder stores in Bangkok and Sydney. "Bangkok is one city where we're not present in Southeast Asia, but we have a large number of customers at our Hong Kong and Singapore stores from Thailand,'' Harris said. "For the last two years we've been planning our entry strategy."

The store will be in the luxury shopping center Gaysorn Plaza and will present new challenges to the Group. "Because of the climatic situation, the apparel market is limited, but footwear is strong,'' Harris said. "Also, Bangkok is a dressier market — it's more formal."

Sydney, which will open in the second half of the year, presents a challenge to "offer something unique to the market," Harris said. "We believe our formula is applicable. The store location is in the east suburbs, about 10 minutes from the city center," Harris said, adding that the street-front shop will be 4,500 to 5,000 square feet.

Harris said the Group wants to have about "50 points of sale by 2008" with sales of $130 million.

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