By  on October 20, 2008

MADRID — Marc Jacobs International president Robert Duffy swears by regional partnerships. It’s the linchpin, he says, to international retail success and the reason Madrid was picked for the first Marc by Marc Jacobs store in Spain.

“We’re here because of our partner [Pepe Barroso]. When you don’t know a market, you make sure you team up with the best, and more and more, we are into joint ventures,” he explained Thursday, on the eve of the Madrid kickoff party. “Everybody involved in the Madrid project really likes this brand. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years, it’s the importance of having the right people working for you. Otherwise, forget it.”

The 1,722-square-foot store, a glass-enclosed corner on Calle Marqúes de la Ensenada in a less-than-shop-heavy area of downtown Madrid, is one-and-a-half levels and was designed by Jacobs’ architect Stephan Jaklitsch. The space features low bench-like seating, shades of blue and ice gray, an oversize peace sign, lacquered metal display cases and industrial air-conditioning. The store carries a full range of women’s, men’s, children’s, accessories, fragrances and special item collections.

“I like the high ceilings and intimacy of the Madrid space, and I like a lot of glass because the windows of Marc by Marc Jacobs are always very important for whatever we do,” Duffy said.

The new location will have no effect on the company’s wholesale relationship with Eks, a multibrand Madrid shop with younger labels (owned by Barroso) that, until now, has had the exclusive on the brand for the Spanish market. “Certain merchandise is only available to our joint venture partners and some items in the Madrid store will be exclusive to this country,” said Duffy.

The brand’s Madrid unit is part of a broader international rollout of 45 stores. “In the last year, apart from London and Paris, we’ve opened in Moscow, Athens, Copenhagen; we’ve signed a lease for a space in Milan; we’ve opened two stores in Istanbul, Turkey; Lisbon is opening in a couple of months; Madrid, and I know I’m leaving somebody out — and all this before the end of the year,” he said.

“Next year will be South America and the Far East, but we’re still in talks with people here in Europe for even more expansion,” Duffy continued. “In addition, we’re opening two stores in Vietnam and a second location in Manila. It’s hard for me to keep track. I’ve been traveling all year.”

The majority of the company’s 200-store global reach is Marc by Marc Jacobs, which is where the growth is, Duffy said. “All the stores buy differently depending on the demographic. For instance, the Madrid store carries a lot of children’s wear and Athens was keen on having men’s wear. It depends on their customer base. We really have to listen to our partners.”

There are plans for additional stores in Spain, he said. “It’s a bad time right now with the horrible economy, but we seem to be weathering better than others because we are so diversified in our product categories. We saw this crisis coming and we planned for it. None of our stores are as heavily stocked as a year ago,” said Duffy.

On the other hand, “It’s very, very scary and we all have to be responsible to the bottom line. One of the reasons for starting Marc by Marc Jacobs nine or 10 years ago was because I wanted to introduce a lower-priced business without compromising quality. I’ve made sure we can address the needs of our customer. I don’t want anybody leaving the store without buying something, even when times are tough.”

As for first-year sales projections, Duffy deferred to Barroso, who ventured 1.5 million euros to 2 million euros ($2 million to $2.7 million at current exchange) with 3 to 5 percent of sales going toward ad spending. “For me, Marc by Marc Jacobs is the hottest brand in the entire world right now, and in the future, we’ll put together an expansion plan here in Spain — that is, if all goes well,” Barroso said.

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