By  on February 5, 2009

MIAMI — Diesel hit the books for the brand’s third store here.

The Milan-based company took the opportunity to do something different with its store design when a long-term lease on a 2,800-square-foot space on Lincoln Road, previously home to a popular independent bookstore, became available.

Rather than spending months renovating the space and losing key seasonal traffic in the process, Diesel’s retail design team opted to make the most of the store’s library aesthetic. Book shelves were refinished for novelty merchandising and touches like vintage furniture and globes were added. Even fake library cards have been tucked into back pockets of each pair of jeans. The store opened in mid-January and will undergo a full renovation in August.

Steve Birkhold, chief executive officer of Diesel USA, estimates 80 percent of the original interior remains, including terrazzo floors, an espresso bar and vintage light fixtures.

“It lacks amenities like perfect modern lighting, but it was more important to preserve the architecture’s integrity now and even later when we renovate,” he said.

In keeping with the street’s vibrancy, DJs spin tunes before hitting nightclub gigs. Though equipped to serve beverages, the company left that component to the bookstore’s popular cafe, which relocated to a courtyard address on the property. Birkhold said other neighbors like a Base lifestyle boutique are a good fit.

The Lincoln Road location is much smaller than most of Diesel’s retail outposts, including a nearby 4,100-square-foot location on Washington Avenue that opened in 2002. That store was halved for an ongoing two-phase renovation and stocks a full assortment. Items like Diesel Black Gold, a premium contemporary denim collection, won’t be carried at Lincoln Road.

Birkhold said Lincoln Road focuses on “the best of the best” from denim retailing for between $170 and $360, T-shirts, leather outerwear, swim, intimates, fragrances, sunglasses, footwear and bags. Men’s bestsellers run the gamut from skinny to boot-cut to straight styles, while women favor skinny jeans in dark blue and black washes, along with the Basic fragrance for $68, and black clutches and wallets from $120 to $85.

“In just the short time we’ve been open, sales are up by mid-double digits over projections,” said Birkhold, who dismisses any suggestion the store might cannibalize wholesale accounts in South Beach. “We’ll have completely different merchandise than other points of sale, which should only benefit from our brand presence in the area.”

Birkhold predicts the Miami market could hold two more Diesel-branded stores in the near future, bringing the number of units in the area to five and making it one of the top three American markets for the company.

“There are certain markets where we have unbelievable success, and Miami is one,” he said of the city’s richly diverse customer base of locals, European and Latin American tourists, and consistent seasonal spikes like spring break. “You don’t have to sit long at a cafe on Lincoln Road before it’s obvious.”

Lincoln Road is part of a three-year growth strategy from Diesel that has, so far, been little affected by the economy. A nearly 20,000-square-foot store will open on Fifth Avenue in New York this month and store relocations have taken place in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

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