By  on July 7, 2009

NEW YORK — Guess Inc. is making a statement in SoHo.

The Los Angeles-based denim and contemporary label kicked off its Fourth of July celebration a bit early with the reopening on Friday of its store at 537 Broadway here, which the company sees as a model for units worldwide with a renewed focus on denim.

Carlos Alberini, president and chief operating officer of Guess Inc., said the 12-year-old store was due for a redesign.

“We felt that with all the international tourists you get and the high traffic in that area of Manhattan, we wanted the brand to be represented consistently with a flagship feel,” he said. “We thought the time was right and the design is representative of our international look.”

The unit, which closed five months ago, has been reconfigured and enlarged.

The overall square footage was increased to 8,700 square feet from 6,100 square feet by moving the stock room and some offices to the basement. The reclaimed space is now occupied by fitting rooms along the back of the building facing Mercer Street, taking advantage of natural light. Guess sought to use the building’s prewar design elements by melding them with new details to create a distinct look. The original brick has been given a gold wash, and a new black tin ceiling was added. The accessories and footwear area features gold brick walls, mirrored columns and black chandeliers.

Alberini said the layout helps the brand make stronger statements along product categories, particularly in denim, accessories and footwear. The footwear area has been enlarged to include seating for customers to try on product, and accessories are centrally located instead of being distributed throughout the space.

“It’s much easier to really look at the overall merchandising that is being offered when it’s being done in one particular area, rather than going through the whole selling floor,” Alberini said.

Denim is also getting emphasis as part of a broader corporate strategy. This spring, the company said it would look to turn consumers’ attention back to Guess’ denim heritage. As part of that effort, management hopes to take advantage of shifting consumer spending habits by tailoring its denim assortment to those shoppers looking for greater value from premium denim.

Guess will increase the percentage of denim in company stores to 40 percent from 30 percent, space that will be freed up as the company replaces tailored jackets, pants and skirts, as well as fancy shirts and dresses. However, dresses will still appear in holiday collections. The company’s focus is now on a midtier price zone between $108 and $148, which co-founder Paul Marciano believes will enable Guess to grab market share from other labels.

“We feel denim is in the roots of our brand and our company, so it is very well represented,” said Alberini, pointing to the creation of a denim wall.

Denim represents about 40 percent of the store’s apparel assortment and accounts for some 30 percent of sales, he said.

Guess’ first-quarter earnings fell 31.9 percent to $32.5 million compared with the same period a year ago. Revenues for the three months ended May 2 declined 9.8 percent to $441.2 million, as sales dropped 10 percent to $419.1 million. North American retail sales slid 2 percent to $207.6 million.

Although Alberini declined to disclose the cost of the redesign, he said: “As with every company last year, with the crisis, we looked at all the projects we had outstanding. This was one of those key, high-priority projects for us….We feel that times are difficult, yet our company continues to do well and our capital structure is strong.”

Guess will celebrate the reopening on July 22 with an evening event hosted by actress Michelle Trachtenberg to benefit Oxfam America.

Other stores will get similar investments, including locations in Milan and Florence. Guess operated 429 retail sites in the U.S. and Canada as of May 2, and the SoHo store will serve as the blueprint for the 81 stores the company intends to open outside North America during the remainder of the fiscal year.

“We are opening many stores in many parts of the world, and this concept is exactly what represents that new look for us,” Alberini said.

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