By  on September 26, 2007

Although Liz Claiborne Inc. has put Prana up for sale, the activewear brand is still going forward with plans to open its first two stores this fall.

With one store in Boulder, Colo., and another in Santa Clara, Calif., Prana will use its foray into retail to compare revenues from a large street store in the heart of the green brand's customer base with a smaller mall unit in a less-penetrated area for the brand.

In Boulder, the 6,000-square-foot flagship (with 3,200 square feet of selling space and a 2,800-square-foot showroom) is at 1147 Pearl Street, a pedestrian-friendly, historic district of the town, known for its love of the outdoors.

"Boulder epitomizes what Prana stands for," founder and president Beaver Theodosakis said. "We have five stores we sell to in Boulder now, and the Rockies is our number-one selling territory. We want our store to be a 21st-century town hall where social and environmental groups can meet, as well as a resource to find yoga studios, climbing areas, trails and places to eat healthy food."

While Prana founders chose the Boulder location, Theodosakis said Claiborne wanted the 2,075-square-foot spot in Westfield Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, a mall where other Claiborne brand stores have thrived.

"In California, we are going into a place where there is not a lot of Prana awareness, and it should be a great learning experience to get feedback from people who are discovering our brand by stumbling on it in a mall," Theodosakis said. "Liz Claiborne picked the mall location to test the two locations, with different sizes, locations and clientele."

Additional retail investment will wait until Prana has a new home, said Theodosakis. In addition to the 1,400 wholesale doors, he said there are plans to open 20 to 40 Prana stores, with the first in Colorado and California. "One of the reasons we went with Liz Claiborne is their store expertise, and we've been talking about opening stores since the beginning," Theodosakis said. "It's taken a year and a half to get to this point, and we wanted to keep it rolling. Liz Claiborne has been really good about having their team stay with us, and there's been talk of locations that would make sense, but the rest of retail will wait until we are working with someone else. At least a test is under way."Founded in 1993 and acquired by Claiborne in 2005, Prana prides itself on its sustainable activewear and business model. Prana enlisted San Francisco-based sustainable environmental design strategist Gensler, and made the stores LEED-certified, as defined by the U.S. Green Building Council, which can cost up to 25 percent more than traditional building, according to industry sources. The stores will use environmentally friendly materials like hemp ropes and recycled carpet. Sustainability in Prana's clothes adds 15 to 20 percent to the material costs, according to Theodosakis.

"The retail is important, but the acquisition is what I spend half my days working on," said Theodosakis, who is creating the book with Prana's story and five-year growth plan. "There are people who are looking at us not just for financial gain, but also to do something good with their portfolio."

He said strategic partners and venture capitalists have contacted the company. Although Claiborne ceo William L. McComb has said that of the 16 brands under review, Prana is the most likely to be kept, Theodosakis said he thinks the brand is "leaning toward being sold, because we are a little bit of a wild card because we are untested retail-wise, unlike the brands they are keeping."

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