By  on March 8, 2012

LAS VEGAS — Topshop has arrived on the West Coast.

Almost three years after the London-based retailer landed in the United States with a Manhattan flagship, Topshop today opens a 22,000-square-foot store at the Fashion Show Mall here, the smallest among its three American locations and the first inside a shopping center. The store will undoubtedly be the most heavily trafficked by tourists, giving Topshop an opportunity to raise brand awareness with international travelers and weekenders from Los Angeles, where the next Topshop is headed as early as this winter at The Grove.

“We are looking to have great flagship stores where we can show what we do,” Sir Philip Green, owner of the Arcadia Group, parent company of Topshop and its men’s sibling, Topman, said in an interview in the shoe section of the Las Vegas store. “Over the last 24 hours, I’ve seen two or three of the big retailers in this mall and shown them around. They think this is great. We will see. The customer will tell us always. I think the offer’s good. I think it shows us in our best light.”

Green explained he wanted to open a Topshop in Las Vegas because there’s a large, young and vibrant fashion audience in the glitzy vacation destination, although Sin City wasn’t necessarily where he expected Topshop to make its West Coast debut. “Our plan is centered around what real estate becomes available at what price, size. You can’t pick and choose exactly when sites become available, so this came first before L.A. We’re cool about that,” he said.

The Fashion Show Mall — where Topshop is located on the lower level surrounded by Starbucks, Fossil, Ed Hardy, Free People and St. Croix — was attractive to Green because of its convenience and appeal to locals, who constitute about 25 percent of its patrons, according to Susan Houck, senior vice president of marketing for General Growth Properties Inc., the mall’s owner. The mall’s anchors of Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s Home are a big reason for the local orientation.

Las Vegas retailing has begun to rebound from the recession, which ate into discretionary income that’s the city’s lifeblood. At GGP’s three properties on the Las Vegas Strip — The Shoppes at the Palazzo and The Grand Canal Shoppes in addition to the Fashion Show Mall — Houck noted business has been up double digits from last year. “Our numbers are coming back to 2008,” she said. At Fashion Show, she added, fast-fashion retail, represented by Mango, Zara and Forever 21 —which opened its largest store at the time two years ago in a 126,000-square-foot space at the shopping center — is a strong category.

The Fashion Show Mall is the second-highest-performing shopping center in GGP’s portfolio after the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. In an analyst conference call last December, the company’s chief executive officer, Sandeep Mathrani, said it generated annual sales per square foot of $1,002. If sales continue at that rate, the Topshop store would be on pace to register over $22 million in annual sales.

“When we took the space in the mall here, one of the key indicators was that all our competitors are here, so they are selling clothes here. We believe we are more fashion-forward than them,” said David Shepherd, Topman’s managing director.

Topman is situated side by side with Topshop in the one-story shop at the Fashion Show Mall, in contrast to its positioning on its own levels within the multistory New York and Chicago locations. Topman occupies about 25 percent of the retail real estate at the Las Vegas store and will likely account for about that much of the store’s sales if the flagship follows the typical Topshop business breakdown in which the percentage of sales from Topman closely hews to the space it is allotted.

Green believes Topman will be a hit in Las Vegas. Already, Shepard remarked, Topman has outfitted 40 Las Vegas club, hotel and restaurant employees in its suits, which are the men’s brand’s fastest-growing category, to expose them to local clientele who have received the slim silhouettes warmly. “It’s been our best business for the last 12 months,” said Green of Topman. He continued, “Our suiting has been excellent because it’s different. It’s got a point of view. It’s trendy. It’s cool.” Gordon Richardson, Topman’s design director, chimed in, “If you used to wear a suit, you looked like your father, but we have revolutionized it and have brought the suit back into [men’s] wardrobes.”

Evaluating Topshop’s U.S. store base, Green said the New York location has “been pretty consistent, steady. We need a location uptown, and we keep looking at various things. We just haven’t found the right thing at the right price. We want a store. In Chicago, we are still learning a little bit about the market; [it’s a] different market from New York. I think we probably feel we will be a lot stronger there in the spring once the weather [warms and it] gets more touristy.”

Ultimately, he said, Topshop hopes to have 15 to 20 flagships in the U.S., but he wouldn’t specify when the retailer will reach that number, stressing the timetable to get there would depend upon the right locations becoming available.

Asked about the differences between Topshop’s U.S. locations, Richardson described the New York store as fashion-forward, the Chicago unit as more straightforward and the Las Vegas one as the place for glamour. Certainly, the merchandise at the Topshop in Las Vegas is geared toward a customer who has come to the city to party, whether it is poolside or at a club. Many of the 50 or so exclusive Las Vegas pieces for women — there are about 40 for men — are going-out wear, including a $400 short, gold and multicolored beaded dress, a $180 harlequin sequin miniskirt and a $360 gold quilted motorcycle jacket.

Outside of the U.S., Green said Topshop has “started very well” in Canada, where it launched last year in shops-in-shop at The Bay. “We have performed better than we thought, and we are now in the final discussions of building the next two. We have a deal with The Bay, but they look stand-alone even though it is part of their business,” he said.

And even if the economy doesn’t pick up in Europe, Green expressed confidence that the Topshop concept works. “The economy’s tough everywhere. It’s about buy now, wear now, having things people want to buy. Nobody needs a white, basic T-shirt. There has got to be a reason for people to purchase. I think we’ve got to be better, quicker, faster, newer, fresher. We have got to inspire the customer,” he said.

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