By  on March 18, 2011

BERLIN — After an absence of more than eight years, Prada has opened a freestanding store on Berlin’s main luxury shopping stretch, Kurfürstendamm.

The luxury brand’s new retail home here is almost literally that. The two-floor, 5,385-square-foot store in a late 19th century landmark building feels like a grand, rambling apartment. The women’s wear department at the back of the second floor, for example, is comprised of several rooms or salons. “We enhanced what we found,” said chief operating officer Sebastian Suhl, who described the Berlin door as the latest evolution of Prada’s signature retail design concept featuring pastel green walls, beige velvet and ivory Saffiano leather.

“But we don’t cookie-cutter our flagships. There are always different elements,” he said. In Berlin, it’s the daylight, provided by an almost continuous stretch of windows on both floors, further accentuated by new generation steel-and-glass shelving. The store houses women’s and men’s wear, bags, accessories and footwear.

Prada closed its first Berlin store in early 2003 when the lease ran out, arguing the 2,370-square-foot space just a few doors down from the current address was too small to effectively present the full collections.

“While we were missing a freestanding presence on Ku’damm, we were present [in Berlin] at wholesale,” Suhl said. “And it’s a flourishing business.”

Store openings “are always a question of priority. Not that Germany is not a priority or an important market. Germany is a very wealthy country and especially important in terms of image,” he said. But that wealth is well distributed throughout the country, he pointed out, and the structure of different federal states or provinces means there are many smaller cities where “we don’t — and won’t — have our own stores.”

As a result, the lion’s share of Prada’s business in Germany, which he said generates about 5 percent of group sales worldwide, remains dominated by wholesale. “Because of the city structure, it’s one of the few markets, along with Italy and the U.S., where wholesale is so important,” he said. Elsewhere, Prada has been on a retail expansion course. Suhl said retail has grown to more than 70 percent of total sales worldwide, which exceeded 2 billion euros, or $2.8 billion at current exchange, in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31.

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