By  on October 20, 2008

D&G officially opened its first directly owned flagship store in Beijing on Thursday, after a soft opening during the Olympics.

Located in the new Beijing Yintai Centre, the store covers 5,054 square feet on two levels and carries D&G collections for women, men, underwear and sunglasses. The D&G Time&Jewels line is also available, marking the launch of the collection in China. The watch and jewelry line is licensed to Italy’s Gruppo Binda and will be gradually introduced in department stores and leading jewelry and watch stores to cover the entire country.

An event marking the official opening of the store was held Thursday, drawing local celebrities including Olympic badminton gold medalist Lin Dan.

The Dolce & Gabbana Group plans to further develop its presence in Greater China, with D&G stores slated to open in Dalian and Guangzhou in November and one in Hong Kong’s Ocean Center this month. These will be run by distributors.

In addition to the Beijing store, the group directly operates three D&G units in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan. Over the past year, four D&G stores opened in China — in Wenzhou, Shenzen, Nanjing, and Shenyang — which are operated by local partners.

Cristiana Ruella, the group’s managing director and a board member, described China as “a brilliant, fast-moving market with great potential and a good understanding of luxury products.” Ruella said the Chinese market has proven “to be very receptive and sensitive towards fashion, with a good capability in perceiving fashion contents and brand’s image.”

The executive underscored how the “huge real estate investments” in China over the past few years “are creating the necessary infrastructure to properly develop the luxury business as it is in the well-established markets.”

In Mainland China, the company has three Dolce & Gabbana directly operated boutiques. Ruella said a fourth will open in Beijing in 2009, covering more than 10,800 square feet. In the Greater China area, the company counts 16 freestanding stores: Seven are Dolce & Gabbana boutiques and nine are D&G units.

China and the rest of Asia, excluding Japan, accounted for about 9 percent of the D&G brand’s overall wholesale revenues in 2008, up 39 percent compared with 2007. Greater China alone accounted for 49 percent of the region’s D&G wholesale revenues, with sales growing 41 percent compared with the previous year.

The group had sales of 1.26 billion euros, or $1.78 billion at average exchange rate, for the fiscal year ending March 31, up 21 percent compared with the previous year. Wholesale revenues reached 1.65 billion euros, or $2.33 billion. The Dolce & Gabbana brand accounted for 55 percent of wholesale sales and D&G for 45 percent.

In January 2005, the groupestablished the wholly owned Dolce & Gabbana Hangzhou Ltd., making it the first Italian fashion company to obtain a license to operate stores in China without local partners. Hangzhou was the first area in China to enact World Trade Organization rules allowing foreign enterprises to wholly own their retail operations. In 2006, the group set up another wholly owned branch office in China, Dolce & Gabbana Shanghai Co. Ltd. These offices are directly managed by the group’s subsidiary in Hong Kong, which was established in 2003 and has about 223 employees.

D&G has 86 stores, of which 46 are directly operated. Recent openings include Istanbul, Kuwait City and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Between late 2008 and early 2009, the company plans to open D&G stores in Paris, Kobe, Japan, and in Los Angeles, on Robertson Boulevard. There is a focus on emerging markets, as well, with D&G stores opening in Russia, Ukraine, Croatia, Indonesia, Thailand, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In India, the first D&G and Dolce & Gabbana boutiques will open in New Delhi at the new luxury Emporio shopping mall.

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