BIG BLUE BOX: Tiffany & Co. announced Monday that its Japanese subsidiary has purchased the land and building housing its flagship in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district for about $140 million, or 16.5 billion yen, plus transaction fees. The 61,000-square-foot, nine-story building, located directly on the Ginza, houses retail, restaurant and office tenants. The Tiffany store occupies approximately 12,000 square feet on the first, second and third floors. Tiffany opened the store in 1996 and expanded it in 1999.

Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement, “Japan represents Tiffany’s largest international market, and the Ginza flagship store makes a meaningful contribution to our sales results. We are pleased that our strong balance sheet allowed us to move quickly to seize this unique opportunity and eliminate uncertainties concerning continued occupancy and rental rates.”

Kowalski said the cost of the transaction is expected to be neutral from an earnings perspective. With the Tokyo deal, Tiffany now owns all three of its flagships’ buildings, the others being in New York and London. Tiffany did not anticipate this capital expenditure, said Kowalski in the statement, and the group expects capital expenditures to be about $290 million, versus the original forecast of $150 million.

Prada opened a flagship shop in Ginza this spring, while Gucci plans to open a unit there in 2005. Other companies with stores in the street include Louis Vuitton; Mitsukoshi, and Shiseido’s fashion retailer, The Ginza. — Koji Hirano

NEW BAGGAGE:
Tumi Inc., South Plainfield, N.J., has established a three-way joint venture company with its Japanese sales and import agents to further penetrate the Japanese market for Tumi handbags and other accessories for business women. ACE Co., the brand’s sole sales agent in Japan, has an 84 percent stake in the joint venture, which is capitalized at $2.5 million, or 300 million yen. Itochu Corp., Tumi’s sole import agent, has funded 15 percent, with Tumi holding 1 percent. The three-way partnership was first formed in 1998 to promote sales of Tumi merchandise in Japan, which resulted in sales at retail of $16.7 million, or 2 billion yen, last year.The establishment of the new, Japanese-incorporated company is designed to structure the business on a long-term and stable basis, Itochu said in a statement, noting that merchandising as well as publicity and public relations activities will be strengthened to appeal to potential customers. “We expect retail sales to reach $41.7 million, (5 billion yen) in 2008,” Itochu said. — Tsukasa Furukawa

TARIFF-FREE TRINKETS:
Jewelry and watches made in Hong Kong will enjoy tax-free status in China under the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement. The pact will be signed today, the day before Hong Kong marks the anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty.

Currently, tariffs on watches exported to China range from 13.2 percent to 23 percent. Such high taxes led many local manufacturers to move their manufacturing bases to China. Local trade associations are hoping the new deal will act as an incentive for production facilities to open in Hong Kong.

The tax-free status was announced at a watch and jewelry fair in Hong Kong, the first major exhibition to be held in the city since the World Health Organization lifted its travel advisory against Hong Kong after the outbreak of the SARS virus. The fair attracted 551 exhibitors from 23 countries. Final visitor numbers were not yet available at press time. — Constance Haisma-Kwok

ON THE BALL:
Chinese soccer continues to wear three stripes. Adidas signed a six-year agreement with the China Football Association last week, extending the Adidas agreement to sponsor Chinese soccer, the country’s most popular sport, until 2010. The men’s and women’s Chinese national teams, as well as second division and junior teams, will sport the Adidas logo. Although Adidas has supported Chinese soccer since 1979, the six-year contract is touted as the biggest sports marketing deal ever in China. — Emilie Marsh

UNLUCKY 14:
Department-store sales throughout Japan in May showed a decline of 3.2 percent compared with a year ago, partly because of unseasonable weather. It was the 14th monthly drop in a row. Total sales of the nation’s 290 department stores were $5.4 billion, or 633.2 billion yen. Sales of apparel, which account for 41.2 percent of total department-store sales, dropped 2.6 percent in May to $2.2 billion, or 260.9 billion yen.Sales from women’s wear, 26.5 percent of the total, fell 2.7 percent to $1.4 billion, or 167.7 billion yen. Men’s wear sales declined 2.1 percent to $442.5 million, or 51.8 billion yen. Men’s wear sales represent 8.2 percent of overall department store sales. — K.H.CHINA SHOWS: Organizers of Intertextile Beijing announced a date and venue change for the event to be held next spring. Intertextile will now take place from March 31 to April 2, 2004.

Messe Frankfurt, which organizes the event, had planned to move Intertextile into the China International Exhibition Centre, but it will now remain at the Beijing Exhibition Center so it can take part in the inaugural Beijing Textile Arena. That show now will comprise four events: Intertextile Beijing, which exhibits apparel fabrics and accessories; Yarn Expo, an exhibition of yarns and fibers; CHIC, China’s largest apparel show, and the Knitting Fair, an exhibition of knitted garments.

The four events will take place at three different venues, but there will be a shuttle bus to take visitors from one event to another. More information can be found at www.messefrankfurt.com.hk

In other trade news, it was announced that the All China Leather Exhibition would go ahead as scheduled. This follows the lifting of a self-imposed restriction on conferences and exhibitions put in place by the Shanghai government during the regional SARS outbreak. The ACLE will take place from Sept. 3-5 at the Shanghai New Expo Centre in Pudong. The show features raw materials and machinery for the leather industry. Further information is available at www.aplf.com. — C.H.K.

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