By  on July 13, 2007

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. is accelerating its strategy of building flagships in major international cities. 

What started out as a cautious plan — three flagships, in London, Manhattan and Los Angeles — is now being pursued aggressively abroad, WWD has learned.

In addition, the retailer is developing a flagship prototype for its Hollister division, which targets 14- to 18-year-olds. The first could open in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

For the Abercrombie brand, which targets 18- to 22-year-olds, the company is working to secure flagships in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and the U.K. Sites may be announced soon, including one in Tokyo. Milan, Paris and Madrid are also being scouted. A&F is targeting big cities abroad for flagships, more than U.S. cities.

“We are just about to finalize a site in Tokyo,” said Tom Lennox, vice president of corporate communications. A&F has been eyeing the Ginza and Omotesando sections of Tokyo, where the vision is to open a multilevel unit of more than 20,000 square feet in fall 2008. “The flagship strategy works in very large. heavily trafficked cities,” Lennox said. “New  York is exceeding both productivity and profitability expectations.”

A&F said it retained PBS Real Estate LLC as exclusive European and U.K. real estate consultant. A&F will work with PBS principal Laura Pomerantz, who helped the retailer land the location for its Fifth Avenue flagship, on 56th Street, and the Ruehl store on Bleecker Street in lower Manhattan.
“We have been evaluating the European markets for some time and it is clear that the demand for the Abercrombie & Fitch brand is very strong,” Mike Jeffries, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We believe that now is the ideal time for us to execute our international growth strategy with expansion throughout Europe.”

The first and only A&F flagship in Europe is at 7 Burlington Gardens in London. At the launch, Jeffries said more overseas stores would open, but added, “We’re not looking for world domination. We want the business to grow naturally, and we’re humble — and cautious — in whatever we do.” The company operates 355 A&F stores, 182 abercrombie stores, 409 Hollister Co. stores and 17 Ruehl stores in the U.S. It also operates three A&F stores and three Hollister stores in Canada, as well as abercrombie.com, abercrombiekids.com and hollisterco.com.

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