By  on February 17, 2012

BERLIN — Reflecting both the strength of the German economy and the ongoing retail surge here, Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana have opened their first designer flagship stores in Berlin.

Located across the street from one another on the designer-studded stretch of Kurfürstendamm, Armani took over a 4,000-square-foot corner store at number 54, while Dolce & Gabbana moved into a two-level, 7,000-square-foot space at number 187. The Berlin doors represent the sixth Giorgio Armani and the second directly operated Dolce & Gabbana store in Germany. Armani operates five Emporio Armani stores in Germany, including one in Berlin.

“In the last 15 to 16 months, we’ve been focusing on Germany as one of the most important markets in Europe,” commented Holger Schmidt, chief executive officer of Giorgio Armani Germany. To this end, Armani has established an in-house public relations office in Munich. “We’re also building dedicated responsibilities for each line [in Germany], and looking to see where we can expand.”

Last year saw Armani-owned stores in Germany increase their sales by 31 percent (like-for-like sales rose 14 percent). “This is a fantastic result,” Schmidt said, adding that the brand’s German wholesale business also booked double-digit gains in 2011.

Berlin is at the center of Armani’s German strategy, according to Fabio Mancone, global head of communication and licenses, who was in town for the store’s official opening celebration last week. “With the new Berlin Giorgio Armani store, we are underlining our commitment and belief in the German market. We plan to expand our Emporio Armani presence with the opening of further stores, and to introduce Emporio Armani to the wholesale market in 2013.”

Armani is also looking into opening Armani Jeans stores in select German cities, and he said “the Hackescher Markt area of Berlin would be perfect for this collection, for example.”

As for the new Ku’damm door, this is the first European Giorgio Armani store to adapt the style of the brand’s Roppongi Hills unit in Tokyo. Design elements of note include black granite floors; walls in marmorino plaster finished in a silver gray to match the ceilings; teak tables with black glass tops; transparent shelves for accessories, so the products look like they’re floating, and throughout, strips of mirror-effect steel finished with a satin texture suggesting the ribs of bamboo.

“Mr. Armani sees Berlin as cutting-edge, and wanted to give the city something special,” Mancone said. As for Berlin’s style, “There’s an intellectual sophistication to the look here. People aren’t interested in showing off, so Giorgio Armani is a good fit.”

With more space devoted to accessories, the Berlin door also illustrates an important growth strategy, he said, adding that “2012 is the year where we revamp and push our accessories business. And that’s true not only with Giorgio Armani but Emporio, too, which can be seen in the strong accessories visuals in the new Emporio store we opened on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris last week.”

Dolce & Gabbana’s Berlin store underscores the brand’s iconic style elements, such as the black-and-white Murano glass chandeliers, burgundy carpets, velvet and brocade in the area dedicated to eveningwear. Besides looking into the expansion potential in a market, “we definitely look for the right location in terms of space and image….In Berlin, Kurfürstendamm is the perfect location for a luxury goods store, and we couldn’t even remotely think of opening anywhere else,” a spokesman said.

Germany contributed about 4 percent of the group’s total wholesale revenues in 2011, and 10 percent of Europe’s revenues (not including Italy), the company said. The new Berlin door is part of the brand’s continued retail expansion, with 22 directly operated stores slated to open in 2012: three more in Europe (Spain, Russia, Luxembourg), two in the U.S. (Fifth Avenue in New York and Los Angeles), one in South America, 10 in the Far East and five in the Middle East. There are 249 Dolce & Gabbana stores globally, of which 91 are directly operated.

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