HONG KONG STORE OPENINGS: Anya Hindmarch has opened its first flagship in Hong Kong’s prestigious Landmark mall, located in the busy Central district, and is currently showcasing the latest summer essentials. Across the street in D’Aguilar Street, people are taking a shine to Carat, a jewelry store that uses the latest technology in diamond simulations to produce stones that are difficult to distinguish from the real thing — unless you look at the price tags. In the Pacific Place mall, just minutes away, Hogan has opened its first boutique, while over in Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon, the newest Celine boutique has opened with much fanfare. This is the first Celine store in Asia to feature a two-level facade and 3,300 square feet of retail space, which is currently being used to display Michael Kors’ fall-winter 2003-2004 collection. — Sally De Souza

GIORDANO DOWN:
Giordano International, the owner of one of Asia’s biggest casualwear retail chains, reported a worse-than-expected 46 percent drop in first-half net profits to $12.6 million, which it blamed on the aftereffects of the SARS epidemic. Hong Kong contributed 22 percent of retail and distribution sales, while 25 percent came from the Chinese Mainland and 19 percent from Taiwan. Chairman and chief executive Peter Lau said SARS had made the business environment one of the most challenging in the group’s history. However, he is optimistic that the Hong Kong operations will pick up in the second half of the year, particularly as Mainland visitors are now allowed to visit the territory on an individual basis, rather than only on group tours. Lau also expects Giordano’s business in South Korea to turn around for the year ending December 2004, and the company will continue operating businesses in Japan and Australia. — S.D.

FALLING CONFIDENCE:
The latest consumer confidence survey in Japan showed a drop of 1.8 points for overall livelihood to 42.5 points in July, indicating the fourth decline in a row from March of this year, according to the nation’s Economic and Social Research Institute of the Cabinet Office.

The consumer confidence index for income growth dropped 2.2 points to 41 points, while the index for prices dropped 5.6 points to 44.7 points and that of willingness to buy durable goods fell 3.4 points to 44.2 points, although the index for employment inched up 0.8 points to 37 points.The survey was carried out on July 15 and covered 435 households in the Tokyo prefecture.

Under the study, consumer perceptions of the following five categories were surveyed: state of livelihood; increase in revenue; rise in prices; employment prospects, and willingness to buy consumer durables. Respondents were asked to evaluate on a scale of one to five what they considered the prospects for the five subjects would be over the next six months. — Koji Hirano

SCAVIA EXPANDS:
Scavia, the high-end jewelry brand from Italy, is moving into the Japanese market in a big way through the trading company, Itochu Corp., which has been named Scavia’s exclusive import sales agent in Japan.

Itochu said the company will begin offering Scavia products in the Japanese market this fall through Nagahori Corp., which will handle distribution to retailers. First-year sales are projected at $4.2 million at retail, or 500 million yen at current exchange. Itochu said sales are expected to triple to $12.5 million, or 1.5 billion yen, in five years.

The Italian firm established a Japanese-based subsidiary, Scavia Japan, in 1999 to sell jewelry in some Tokyo department stores. Itochu said the new agency agreement with Scavia is aimed at further expanding Japanese sales. Scavia Japan is to be phased out, replaced by the Itochu-Nagahori partnership.

Prices for the Scavia line will range from $2,500 (300,000 yen) for rings to $4,167 (500,000 yen) for bracelets. In its less-expensive “io si scavia” line, prices will range from $1,500 (180,000 yen) for rings to $2,096 (250,000 yen) for brooches or bracelets, according to the Japanese agent. — Tsukasa Furukawa

SEIYU SEES NET LOSS:
Neither the weather nor the economy are cooperating with Seiyu Ltd.’s plans for a 2003 recovery.

The Tokyo-based retailer, of which Wal-Mart Stores holds a 37.7 percent stake, said last week it expects a net loss of $83.4 million for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, versus the $25 million profit projected earlier.

Seiyu is moving the end of its fiscal year to Dec. 31 from Feb. 28 and therefore will have a 10-month fiscal year this year. Dollar figures have been converted from the yen at current exchange, as Seiyu moved its projection to a loss of 10 billion yen from a profit of 3 billion yen. In the year ended Feb. 28, Seiyu lost $76 million.“Like other retailers in Japan, our sales have been hit by the sluggish economy and unseasonal weather conditions,” said Masao Kiuchi, president, in a statement.

He added that Seiyu is taking steps in tandem with Wal-Mart which, in time, will “generate strong sales even in difficult economic circumstances and ultimately benefit our customers.”

But so far, sales have been weak and are expected to conclude the six months ending Aug. 31 down 4.5 percent on a comparable-store basis. Likewise, Seiyu foresees a loss of $83.4 million, or 10 billion yen, on sales of $4.65 billion, or 558 billion yen, for the six months, versus an earlier forecast of a break-even half with sales of $4.75 billion, or 570 billion yen.
— Arnold J. Karr

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