By  on January 5, 2012

After opening a store on Rodeo Drive last year, French fashion house Barbara Bui is extending further into direct-to-consumer with e-commerce launching in April and plans for more stores.

Bui’s online retail operations are being developed in partnership with the e-tail specialist Yoox Group, which designs and manages online stores for the likes of Giorgio Armani, Marni, Valentino, Jil Sander and Roberto Cavalli and, in Yoox.com, has the only Web site where Barbara Bui is officially available at this time. The brand’s e-commerce site will start with a full selection of summer merchandise, including ready-to-wear, shoes and handbags.

“We will try to show our world and our products in the most authentic and personal way. The visitors and the customers will be immersed in the brand’s world and spirit,” said William Halimi, chairman and chief executive officer of Barbara Bui SA. He added, “For many years, we were thinking about doing it, but we were looking for a good partner who has connections to deliver internationally.” The Web site will have the ability to ship goods to at least 40 countries.

Halimi wouldn’t disclose a sales projection for Barbara Bui e-commerce, but said, “In the future, e-commerce should be one of the brand’s biggest stores.” With only 17 stores globally, he explained e-commerce would attract new customers in the many regions of the world where Bui doesn’t have a retail presence.

At the same time, Bui is looking to expand its store base. Halimi said the brand is in discussions with three to four U.S. malls for store locations averaging 1,800 to 2,000 square feet, much smaller than its 5,000-square-foot Beverly Hills flagship. “The collection is working in the U.S.,” said Halimi.

After opening its New York store more than a decade ago, Bui decided to take a chance on Rodeo Drive when the brand noticed 20 percent of the sales in its New York store were coming from California. Bui reasoned she’s gaining traction in the state because the brand speaks to a West Coast customer. “She represents the core values of my brand,” said Bui, who anticipates a Barbara Bui store will open soon in China as well. “The Los Angeles woman is cool and casual, but she can also be dressy and glamorous, like the rock ’n’ roll thing I do. L.A. is a fashion window as important as New York for me in America.”

With the exception of the month of September last year, Halimi said sales at the Rodeo Drive store have reached the company’s monthly goals and has given the brand confidence that its retail formula can be successful in the U.S. “The first months have been promising for the Los Angeles store,” he said. “Our new store is good…for winning important visibility in the U.S. and worldwide. The proximity of celebrities is a real important asset.”

For the first nine months of 2011, the latest period for which there is financial information, Bui’s total revenues rose 5 percent to 24.9 million euros, or $34.7 million at last year’s average exchange rate. Retail sales climbed 6 percent to 9.7 million euros, or $13.5 million. For the full year 2011, Halimi said the company expected a growth rate similar to what the brand registered in the first nine months.

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