There are several ways to judge the momentum of high-end brands. Of course, financial results are key, but store openings can also tell a story. Ferragamo launched 66 stores in 2003, but it’s important to remember that the company has seven brands in its stable. Escada added 56 locations, Bulgari opened 35 units and Coach launched 33. Ralph Lauren opened only three new stores, but one, significantly, is in Milan and marks the company’s entry into the Italian market. Versace opened 31 new stores in 2003, but warned that it may be closing locations or downsizing some existing flagships. Many companies see Asia as a fertile market, if not exactly a new frontier. Some firms are opening more than a dozen locations in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

  1. MAX MARA
    1,167

    Max Mara Fashion Group SRL’s store count includes Max Mara, Marina Rinaldi, SportMax, Max & Co., and Persona, Marella, Penny Black and I Blues, sold outside the U.S. With more than $1 billion in sales, Max Mara is one of Italy’s largest fashion firms. New product groups this year include resort, swimwear, hosiery and accessories. The firm will launch a scent with a division of Procter & Gamble’s Wella unit with first-year retail sales estimated at $15 million.

  2. ESCADA
    439

    Escada Group seems to be back on track. Cost-cutting measures are proceeding according to plan with fixed costs to be slashed by 40 million euros ($49 million) by Oct. 31, the end of the company’s fiscal year. Escada is also growing its business. Sales for the third quarter rose 3.7 percent to 144.9 million euros or $177.6 million at current exchange. Another good sign: Orders were up 2 percent (in euro terms) for the first time in three years.

  3. POLO RALPH LAUREN
    355

    Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.’s newest flagship is in Milan and represents the company’s first foray to Italy. There are now seven Ralph Lauren flagships worldwide. The company’s financial results have been encouraging. In the three months ended July 3, Polo’s net income rose 165.1 percent as sales grew 24.1 percent. Net revenue jumped to $592.8 million from $477.7 million. There are plans to open 70 to 85 stores in the U.S. and Europe over the next five years.

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