Byline: Koji Hirano

TOKYO--Louis Vuitton Japan reported record-high sales of $850 million for the year 2000, 16 percent higher than a year ago, according to the firm.
In 1999, the firm generated sales of $731 million, 14 percent higher than the prior year. Dollar figures are converted from the yen at current exchange rates.
In 2000, Louis Vuitton Japan opened four shops in Japan, including the nation's biggest store of 13,235 square feet in Ginza.
Although its beyond the worst of the Asian money crisis, Japan continued to suffer from economic anemia last year. Total sales of the nation's department stores for the year 2000 dropped 1.9 percent, to $74.7 billion, while apparel sales at department stores decreased 3 percent, according to the Japan Department Stores Association. The Japan Chain Store Association reported that total sales at those outlets also dropped 5.1 percent, to $137 billion, while apparel sales dropped 9.8 percent.
However, these factors hardly affected the Vuitton franchise. "The strength of Louis Vuitton here is outstanding," said Toru Kanyama, fashion trend analyst in Tokyo. "Everyone knows that Louis Vuitton is different. It has deep-rooted popularity based on its merchandise of high quality, historical background and universal styling that attracts a wide range of consumers regardless of age and sex."
The Japanese branch of the brand was established in 1978. Louis Vuitton Japan operated 46 shops throughout Japan as of Jan. 1. In 2001, it will renovate 10 existing shops. The Japanese firm currently has 1,143 employees, to which it intends to add an additional 400. Louis Vuitton Japan also established its multimedia group as of Jan. 1 and is investigating Internet activity and other new media ventures.
Louis Vuitton Japan also plans to open a shop in Omote-Sando, another hot shopping district, within its seven-floor building in spring 2002. The 31,200-square-foot building will be the brand's integrated house in Japan, housing three floors of retail space and accommodations for service, repair and special orders on other floors. A museum andsalon are also under consideration, according to Louis Vuitton Japan.

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