By  on January 20, 2005

NEW YORK — Playboy Enterprises Inc., which now has an appetite for luxury goods and fashion as well as Bunnies, is expanding its retail presence with two new licensed stores slated to open for fall.

The stores, in Las Vegas and Melbourne, Australia, are part of an effort to continue to broaden the brand’s image in the minds of consumers and drive sales at wholesale accounts, which sell licensed products such as women’s and men’s apparel, swimwear, jewelry, small leather goods and watches.

In addition to being showcases for the brand, Playboy chairman and chief executive officer Christie Hefner said the stores are expected to turn a profit.

“We can get the best of both worlds,” she said.

The licensed products are already sold in a broad range of stores including Selfridges in London and Seibu in Hong Kong, as well as Gadzooks and Hot Topic in the U.S. In general, the brand’s licensed products drive more than $400 million in retail sales in over 125 countries. The company said 85 percent of the customers for Playboy’s licensed goods are women.

Playboy’s first freestanding boutique opened in Tokyo in 2002. “Our experience in Tokyo demonstrates that a successful store can influence sales far beyond that single location,” said Hefner. “Since 2002, we have seen double-digit sales growth in Japan, in part reflecting the increased awareness of our brand created by the Tokyo store.”

The company is hoping to replicate that success in Las Vegas and Melbourne and is also looking to open three more stores during each of the next three years. Hefner said the stores will target style-conscious women and men ages 18 to 29, who identify with the brand’s lifestyle and sex appeal.

The Las Vegas store is set to be in The Forum Shops at Caesars and will be opened in conjunction with Kupono Investment Inc., a division of Waikiki Trader Group, while the brand’s foray into Melbourne will be in collaboration with Australasian Designer Brands PTY.

The stores will each be more than 2,000 square feet and won’t require any investment on the part of Playboy. They each will follow a prototype designed by New York-based architecture and design firm WalkerGroup. To prepare the new concept, Jay Valgora, design principal for WalkerGroup, went to the Playboy mansion. So what impressed him?“I loved the pool bar,” he said. Accordingly, the prototype includes inner and outer portions of the store so customers feel as if they are spying on each other, as well as videos of women swimming.

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