ORLANDO'S DENIM KINGDOM

Byline: Georgia Lee

ORLANDO, Fla.--Mickey and Calvin Klein, Goofy and Levi Strauss.
For many of the international tourists who flock here for fun and sun, those names exert equal pull.
Orlando has a population of about one million, and it attracts close to 34 million tourists each year. An increasing number are from South America, Europe and Japan, according to the Orlando Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
And because the cost of a pair of jeans abroad can be twice what it is here, those tourists search for brands as status symbols and souvenirs.
Retailers here are capitalizing on this growing demand for denim, with stores in key tourist areas. Here are profiles of two Orlando denim specialty stores that have built their businesses on selling brand-name denim to international customers.

WORLD OF DENIM
"Branded denim has been so hot at World of Denim that by end of 1996, there will be six stores, all operating within a 10-mile radius of here," said Judy Cheek, the chain's general manager.
"There's enough tourist business in a concentrated area for that many stores to all do well," she said.
Currently, there are five stores in the chain, three of them World of Denim units and two called Denim World, the name under which the chain started in business 15 years ago.
At that time, Denim World targeted a local audience with unbranded merchandise at promotional prices. But the increasing demand for branded merchandise by international tourists spurred the opening of a new format called World of Denim, in 1992.
"We were driven by price," said Cheek. "Now it's the right branded merchandise. Brand names are so important to these customers that they come in the door asking for it."
The new approach has worked so well that the two Denim World stores will be changing their name to World of Denim in the next year, and an additional store will be opened. The owners declined to give figures, but industry sources estimate volume at over $20 million for the five current stores.
Each store is around 10,000 square feet, said Cheek. Store interiors are light and bright, with wooden fixtures mixed with metal and mini-departments housing separate brands.
The mix is about 40 percent women's, 60 percent men's. Best-selling brands include Guess, Calvin Klein, Levi, Lee, Wrangler, Pepe, Girbaud, Diesel and Replay.
Levi is a mainstay for the store and accounts for 35 percent of business. The basic 501 jean is the best-selling item storewide. Levi's are priced at around $30 to $40.
World of Denim also buys about $2 million of Calvin Klein merchandise.
"Calvin Klein is huge in Europe and more expensive there," said Cheek.
Most lines in the store are priced around the same as in department stores, although some are about 15 percent lower, depending on sales and promotions.
Although World of Denim carries complete collections from several of its vendors, 50 percent of the overall business is from the sale of bottoms, primarily jeans. Fashion pieces such as scooters, rompers and short-alls are mixed in to attract fashion-conscious customers.
Logos--the bigger, the better--are very important to the international customer, said Cheek.
"Customers want to go home looking like they've bought something here," she said. "Our local customers don't want to advertise brands, and our vendors don't understand it, but to these customers, it's a status symbol."

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