By  on August 16, 2005

NEW YORK — Zadig & Voltaire, a Paris-based sportswear retailer with a casual contemporary bent, is entering the U.S. with a 3,700-square-foot shop in Sunset Plaza in Los Angeles.

"It's our flagship store for the U.S. and will help us in this first phase of development," said Al Cadosch, the retailer's chief executive officer and managing director. "Each opening for us is a big bet, but I don't believe we could have found a better location in L.A. to enhance the brand."

Cadosch said the company will probably proceed cautiously in the U.S., with six to 10 store openings over the next two years. "We may go faster, but that depends on who we deal with." If the company works with a developer with multiple properties, the expansion could accelerate. Conversely, "if we deal with 10 landlords, it may take more time."

Shop-in-shops inside U.S. stores are also a possibility down the road. "In the second phase, we may open discussions with select department stores, but we are not in a hurry to knock at their doors," Cadosch said.

The company, which generated 25 million euros, or about $30 million, in sales in its fiscal year ended in July, operates 25 stores in France and will have 32 by the end of the year. There is also one store in Geneva. Elsewhere in Europe, the chain plans to open units in September in Brussels and Madrid; Stockholm in mid-October, and, a few months later, in Zurich and London. Cadosch projected next year's volume at around 40 million euros, or $49.5 million at current exchange.

"The brand should be in world capitals and main cities, rather than in every mall. We don't want to be national. We want to be international," Cadosch said.

The vertical retailer, founded in 1997 by Thierry Gillier, owner, and his wife, Amelie, designs its clothes and accessories under the Zadig & Voltaire label. Aside from the freestanding stores, there are a few shop-in-shops in France and Switzerland, and some merchandise is wholesaled to stores in Copenhagen and Tokyo. However, wholesaling is "not the business model we want to stay in," Cadosch said. "We will switch to a business model to fully controlled shop-in-shops. We should thoroughly control our destiny."Cadosch expects the Los Angeles store to yield $2 million to $3 million in sales its first year. The Paris flagship does 4.5 million euros, or $5.6 million, and the company does 4 million euros, or $4.9 million, with shop-in-shops inside Galeries Lafayette stores. Among the most popular items are cashmere sweaters, priced at $220; leather accessories, priced from $100 for a wallet to $800 for a handbag, and jeans, at $180. Cadosch said the brand is positioned somewhere between Fred Segal and Calypso, and competes in Europe against Joseph and agnès b., among other brands.

According to Alan Napack, director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield, "SoHo will be the second site for Zadig & Voltaire. We are currently looking in the area."

Napack, who worked on the Los Angeles deal with Leslie Mayer, senior director of Cushman's Los Angeles office, described Zadig & Voltaire as "easy-to-wear, good-quality fashion." The Sunset Plaza store is situated between BCBG and Catherine Malandrino. "It's a fun little shopping strip with great retailers. It's a destination."

Cadosch said he is recruiting for a Los Angeles store manager, and prefers an American with local experience, though he will be sending one person from Paris to assist.

Regardless of the performance of the Los Angeles store, six to 10 stores will open in the U.S. over the next couple of years, Cadosch said. "We are self-financed and the decision is made already."

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