By  on November 7, 2007

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Versace has returned to South Coast Plaza with a fresh approach.

After an absence of about 21 months from the mall in Costa Mesa, Calif., Versace last month opened a more than 4,000-square-foot store in a luxury corridor with neighbors such as Cartier, Escada, Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

Unlike its previous franchised incarnation, the unit is owned by the Milan-based company and features the brand's updated black-and-white aesthetic signatures, including white lacquered walls, partial black granite flooring and brightly illuminated white leather-covered shelving.

"It is a very important step for us," said Roberto Lorenzini, president and chief operating officer of Versace's U.S. division. "In the last couple of years, this is the first new opening in the U.S. and in a major market like Costa Mesa. We are definitely going back to this market in a very strong way with a great location and a big store."

The South Coast Plaza unit is the sixth of Versace's eight U.S. stores to be outfitted with the sleek retail design. Versace unveiled its overhauled 5,000-square-foot Beverly Hills flagship on Rodeo Drive this year, and expects to finish renovating its Houston store this month. The Atlanta and Dallas units should be redone within 18 months.

"The feeling is more appealing and more customers stop by," Lorenzini said of the revamped look. "We definitely see more traffic flow. This is bringing our sales way higher, and the growth is definitely going to a faster pace." He added that year-over-year same-store sales have increased more than 30 percent, although he declined to disclose exact revenue figures or project first-year sales for the South Coast Plaza store.

The South Coast Plaza boutique has all the brand's offerings — from women's and men's ready-to-wear collections to bags, shoes and belts, eyewear, jewelry and home goods. Lorenzini said accessories would be a key revenue driver, and added that the company's goal is to boost awareness of Versace overall as a lifestyle resource. "We believe that Versace is going to be viewed as a complete brand," he said.

Lorenzini estimated that the South Coast Plaza store's average ticket would be a "few thousand dollars," comparable to other Versace units in the U.S.Rtw runs from $600 to $4,000; watches, $1,000 to $15,000; belts, $500 to $1,200, and handbags average $2,000.

The Orange County region, where South Coast is situated, "is a very wealthy area that has a lot of potential customers for Versace," he said. "We were lacking [those] customers that didn't want to travel one hour or [more to Beverly Hills] to find one brand."

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