By  on May 16, 2008

TOKYO — Don't expect a towering Calvin Klein megastore here anytime soon. The American fashion brand is reaching out to Japanese customers in its signature understated style.

Calvin Klein Inc. is plotting to bolster its presence here by enlarging the size of its department store corners for ck Calvin Klein and opening a Calvin Klein Collection flagship in Tokyo next year, Tom Murry, Calvin Klein's president and chief operating officer, told WWD.

"The [Japanese] consumer here is very resilient and there are a lot of consumers...from all over the world, from China and other places, coming here to shop," Murry said Wednesday on the sidelines of a presentation here.

The event, the latest in a string of similar appointments around the globe, featured models in ck Calvin Klein's highly tailored fall-winter collection on a rotating platform and an appearance by actress Rinko Kikuchi in a bias-cut silk dress from Collection.

Ck Calvin Klein creative director Kevin Carrigan, who travels to Tokyo about four times a year and Hong Kong about six times annually, also stressed the importance of Asian markets to the company, recalling how the company's co-founder, Barry Schwartz, established ties with current licensing partner Onward Kashiyama Co. Ltd. back in the Seventies.

"We're really entrenched in the Japanese market and they really know and trust us," Carrigan said between trips backstage to oversee models' exits in floor-length eveningwear and tailored jackets. "They really understand our sensibility of modern clothes."

While in Tokyo, Murry is canvassing potential locations for the new Collection store in the Aoyama or Ginza neighborhoods. The new store will probably be about 4,000 square feet in size, modest in the era of the 10-story luxury flagship popping up in those neighborhoods, and will complement the six other Collection stores around the world. One or two Collection shop-in-shops in Japanese department stores are also in the works.

The executive said the Calvin Klein brand is strong enough in terms of cohesive design, image, communication and product lines "to gain market share in the soft period." Calvin Klein did about $200 million in retail sales in Japan last year and should grow between 4 percent and 6 percent this year, according to a company spokeswoman.The company is also planning to bolster its sales by expanding the size of its shop-in-shops in department stores, especially the space dedicated to accessories, with Onward Kashiyama. At the end of April, ck Calvin Klein's ready-to-wear business counted 118 shop-in-shops across Japan, nine of which opened last year.

Calvin Klein is focusing on increasing the size of its existing wholesale network rather than opening more sales points, Murry explained. "We get more return on investing in the A and B doors sometimes then we do in trying to get more C and D doors," he said.

"You know, we find sometimes the best way to grow the business is to intensify a location with bigger presentations and more product, just a stronger presence," Murry added.

Japan is just one facet of the company's push to internationalize its business, also plotting more freestanding stores in countries such as China and India. Overall, the company has about 420 freestanding stores around the world, with about 115 more, including shops in stores, planned for 2008. About 60 to 65 percent of the new stores will be in Asia.

This year, Calvin Klein Inc. plans to post $6 billion in retail sales. About half of that figure is generated in the U.S. while the remainder comes from Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Murry said that breakdown should not change in the near future because growth is consistent across geographical regions. Still, that could change in the longer term, he explained.

"Probably over the next decade and beyond our business will skew more toward Asia," Murry said.

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