NEW YORK--Warner Bros. Studio Stores has formed a new division to expand into the Far East and has signed an agreement with Hong Kong entrepreneur Dickson Poon to open stores in Hong Kong and Singapore, beginning late in 1995. The plan is to have 100 freestanding stores and in-store shops in Asia in five to six years, said Peter Starrett, president of the Warner Bros. chain. In the U.S., Warner's operates 87 stores and is projecting 100 by the end of the year and another 30 to 35 next year. There are 10 in the United Kingdom and one in Berlin, and five to 10 openings are planned in Europe in 1995. Warner's new International Franchise Operations division will enable the company to expand in Asia "at a much faster pace than if we owned and operated every store," said Starrett. Warner Bros. will approve and supervise store design, location and operating guidelines in each country. "Our goal is to utilize the local retailers' expertise to bring Warner Bros. Studio Stores to the Asian marketplace in a way that makes them indistinguishable from our owned and operated [units] in the U.S. and Europe," Starrett said. Until now, Warner Bros., based in Burbank, Calif., has focused on company-owned stores in the U.S. and Europe. The new division will establish Warner Bros. stores in Asia through joint operating agreements with a single retailer in each country. After Hong Kong and Singapore, Warner's hopes to open stores in Japan, where it is negotiating with prospective partners. Warner's is also developing a strategic plan for China, according to Dan Romanelli, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Consumer Products. Worldwide expansion will be fed by new products based on Warner's Looney Tunes cartoon characters, including many not currently merchandised, and increased broadcasting of animated features around the world, Romanelli said. Warner's currently has no in-store shops, but plans 1,500-square-foot units for Asia, particularly Japan, where real estate is in short supply. However, Poon's company, Dickson Concepts, will establish Warner Bros. "flagships" of about 10,000 square feet in key city locations, Warner's said Wednesday. Dickson Concepts is a major public company operating 200 stores internationally, marketing subsidiaries in Asia and Europe and a wholesale distribution division.Dickson owns Harvey Nichols department store in London, the French luxury goods group S.T. Dupont and is Ralph Lauren's exclusive licensee for Southeast Asia and China.
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