PERLE OF THE ORIENT: In another sign that Guangzhou is China’s latest hot spot for retail, a new shopping mall has opened in the heart of the city’s commercial district. La Perle is a $12.1 million, or 100 million renminbi at current exchange, joint venture between Hong Kong Prosper Development and Guangzhou Properties Development. The 107,650-square-foot complex is linked to the lobby of the Bai Yun Hotel and already boasts such well-known tenants as Burberry, Polo Ralph Lauren, Hermès and Céline. Christian Dior, Ermenegildo Zegna, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and Prada all unveiled new concept stores at La Perle. — Constance Haisma-Kwok

BLUE AND BLACK: Levi Strauss Japan K.K., the Tokyo-based subsidiary of the American jeans manufacturer, reported a 5.5 percent increase in net income to $14 million, or 1.49 billion yen, in the year ended Nov. 30. Sales rose 11.5 percent to $258.1 million, or 26.69 billion yen.

Pretax income during the end of November fiscal year gained 3.1 percent to $24 million, or 2.55 billion yen, the company said.

The jeans market in Japan slowed in the past year as the surge in demand for women’s jeans that had continued for a few years lost steam in the latter part of 2003. There also were few new trends that could stimulate demand. As a result, last year saw a gap develop between winners and losers in the market. Some jeans specialty stores cashed in record-breaking profits, while premium brands of women’s jeans gained increased popularity, Levi Strauss Japan noted.

Despite the severe business environment, Levi Japan said, the company continued to successfully offer its premium brands with higher added value to consumers. Increased efforts also were made to win recognition of its brands in the women’s market through publicity and advertising campaigns, while its Red Loop Girl line, which was targeted to women in their 20s, expanded sales, supported by such promotional campaigns as using popular fashion models, holding large-scale fashion shows, increasing advertising, and providing product and customer information to consumers through Internet- and mobile phone-based media.

In 2003, the company opened eight new Levi’s stores selling Levi’s merchandise only, bringing the total of such stores in operation in Japan to 26. They include the Levi’s Vintage Clothing store in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo, and Ladies’ Levi’s Store Tokyo in Daikanyama, Tokyo. — Tsukasa FurukawaSPLIT IN SHANGHAI: Messe Frankfurt (HK) has announced that its Intertextile Shanghai show will split into two fairs, one for the garment textile industry and one for home textiles. Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics will take place Oct. 26-29 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. To meet demand, the fair will run one day longer than originally planned.

Last year, more than 1,000 exhibitors participated in the fast-growing fair. Organizers predict the split will better serve the buying seasons of the two industries. — C.H.K.

NEW LICENSE: Yamato International Inc. has taken out a license from Cyrillus S.A., a subsidiary of Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, for the importation, distribution and manufacturing of the Cyrillus brand of clothing and accessories in Japan.

Yamato, which is taking over the operation of two existing Cyrillus shops from Cyrillus Japon, a Tokyo-based Cyrillus subsidiary, plans to open its own directly operated shops, as well as shops-in-stores in shopping centers, over the next few years. Sales of the Cyrillus brand in the third year of business are projected to reach 1.8 billion yen, or $17 million.

Cyrillus Japon will continue to handle catalogue sales, Yamato said. The French company entered the Japanese market in 1997, initially with catalogue sales and then moving to establish a flagship in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, in 1998, and a second shop in Motomachi, Yokohama, in 2000.

The Cyrillus line includes women’s, men’s and children’s wear, and bags and other accessories. Yamato said Cyrillus sales in Japan are expected to be 65 to 75 percent of imported merchandise and 25 to 35 percent of products manufactured in Japan under license.

Cyrillus, whose global sales are 65 percent from boutiques and 35 percent from catalogues, reported sales of $159.4 million, or 125.5 million euros, in 2002. It now operates 42 stores in France, three in Belgium, four in Germany and two in Switzerland, in addition to the units in Japan.

Yamato, a major apparel manufacturer based in Osaka and Tokyo, reported sales of $180 million, or 19.14 billion yen, last year. The company employs about 250 people and is known in Japan for such brands as Aigle from France, Crocodile, Hiromichi and No Concept But Good Sense. — T.F.SORTING OUT SEIYU: Seiyu Ltd., a leading Japanese chain of supermarkets and general merchandise stores, said it is making good progress in its five-year restructuring program in partnership with its largest shareholder, Wal-Mart. Seiyu said the company has implemented a number of improvements in store information management systems, logistics and merchandise assortment since last year.

The changes involved the introduction of Wal-Mart’s “Smart” information systems, to nine pilot stores initially, and the launch of Wal-Mart’s “Retail Link” system networking Japanese suppliers, Seiyu said, noting that the company has started importing and selling Wal-Mart’s private label merchandise, such as Simply Basic in apparel, Great Value in foods and Kids Connection in toys. The introduction of “Retail Link,” which enables quicker sharing of product information between Seiyu and its suppliers, has resulted in a 40 percent improvement in some distribution center operations, Seiyu noted. “Smart” systems will be expanded to other Seiyu stores at the rate of 20 per month this year, it added.

Some 100 Japanese suppliers were trained in “Retail Link” operations last year, and 300 more are to receive education by the end of June this year.

Wal-Mart has a 37 percent stake in Seiyu, which now operates more than 400 stores throughout Japan. Seiyu plans to open three large-size stores in 2004, including a new format single-floor store of 80,000 square feet in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, west of Tokyo, in April. — T.F.

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