NEW YORK -- Ralph Lauren is the latest Western designer to leap The Great Wall.

Through its Far Eastern licensing agent, Dickson Poon, Polo-Ralph Lauren Corp. recently opened the first Polo-Ralph Lauren store in China.

Located in the Jin Jiang Dickson Center in Shanghai, it is the first move the company has made into a market it believes is "emerging."

But Lauren is dealing with the market one step at a time. "We wanted to get in on the ground floor," said Cheryl Sterling, president of Polo-Ralph Lauren Retail and Licensing Corp., noting that Shanghai was chosen for the first store because of its standing as one of China's most advanced cities.

The Jin Jiang Dickson Center is a joint venture between the Dickson Group of Hong Kong and Jin Jiang Co. of the People's Republic of China. Dickson Poon is a principal in the Dickson Group, a holding company for department stores in Asia, and the Polo-Ralph Lauren licensee for more than a decade. Other stores in the center include Charles Jourdan, Guy Laroche, Liz Claiborne and Nino Cerruti.

The 5,000-square-foot Ralph Lauren store has a full range of Collection, Collection Classics, Ralph and Active women's wear lines, as well as men's wear and accessories. Asked if the merchandise was any different than the American lines, Sterling said there was no difference, even in sizing.

"We'll find out if we need to make changes," she added.

Retail prices are about the same as they are in Hong Kong, which Sterling said is generally about the same, or a little bit higher, than retail prices in the U.S. The company plans to introduce the store to Shanghai with a newspaper ad campaign, which has yet to be finalized.

While Sterling would not give sales figures, she said 10,000 people passed through the store on May 16, its opening day.

A search is underway for a location in Beijing for a second store, which could open within 18 months or so, said Sterling. There are no active plans for store openings in the near future, she said, indicating that the company preferred to watch how business develops before making further plans.

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