TOKYO — Michael Kors is embarking on an ambitious growth plan for Asia as the fashion house hits the $1 billion threshold in annual sales.John Idol, chief executive officer of Michael Kors, said the American house plans to open five to seven freestanding retail stores, 50 accessories shop-in-shops, and an undetermined number of apparel shop-in-shops in Japan over the next three years. The first batch of these will open between February and April and the designer, famous for his sportswear and his turn as a “Project Runway” judge, is expected to pay a visit here sometime in the spring.The company also plans to open a Shanghai flagship, its first store in China, in fall 2011 and open another 40 to 50 corners and freestanding stores in the country over the next three years, he said.Idol explained the house wanted to regain full control of its Japanese business and establish its own image here before moving on to China. At the end of this year, the brand’s licensing deal with Onward Kashiyama will expire.“Japan is still a very exciting and vibrant fashion market,” the executive said at an interview at the new Michael Kors Japan showroom in the heart of Harajuku. “We view this opportunity as being perfect timing for our company.”Two weeks ago, the company opened its first store on Omotesando Avenue selling Michael Kors Collection accessories as well as the Michael Michael Kors diffusion range of apparel and accessories.Idol said Michael Kors will do $1 billion in business this year and specified the figure includes the company’s consolidated sales as well as a “small” amount of licensing revenue. He declined to give a comparable figures for 2009, but said the business was about $17 million seven years ago, when he joined the company as ceo and became a part owner alongside Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll.The executive said 65 percent of the $1 billion is generated in the U.S. and the balance is international. He did not break down the business in terms of the Michael Kors Collection and the Michael Michael Kors brands, but he said handbags, footwear and other accessories account for 65 percent of the total. The executive said the company, unlike scores of other luxury goods players, has not experienced a downturn in the current macroeconomic climate. He attributed that success to a combination of Kors’ trend-savvy talent, craftsmanship and “approachable luxury” positioning.“If you start worrying about the economy, the competition, you lose your focus,” he said.In line with that thinking, Idol said he’s not concerned with the fact that the luxury market in Japan is stagnant at best. He said he expects the brand’s quality and reasonable pricing strategy will resonate will consumers here.When stating his case, Idol picked up a pink ceramic watch, which retails for 63,000 yen, or $752, in Japan. “This is as good as any ceramic watch in the world,” he said.
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