By  on August 1, 2007

SINGAPORE — If you build it, they will come and, Gap Inc. hopes, they will shop.

Customers were waiting when the retailer unveiled its first Banana Republic store here on July 14, the region's third new boutique in as many months. The Singapore store joins a Banana Republic unit in Jakarta, Indonesia, that launched in May, and one in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which opened in June, all operated as franchises of local retailer and distributor FJ Benjamin Holdings Ltd., which brought the Gap to the region last year.

The openings come amid a major international expansion for Banana Republic, which debuted franchise stores in the Middle East this year in addition to its existing company-owned units in the U.S., Canada and Japan. This month, parent Gap Inc. will open its first franchise shops in South Korea for both Banana Republic and the Gap. The company is also set to expand into Turkey and Saudi Arabia before the end of the year, and launch Banana Republic in the U.K. next February.

The new two-floor Singapore store occupies prime space in one of the city's highest-end luxury malls, The Paragon, where neighbors include retailers such as Versace, Miu Miu and Longchamp. The location is intended to augment the brand's accessible luxury image and offers a slightly higher positioning than in the U.S.

"For any American brand — not just Gap and Banana Republic — when you take it [to a new market], it's more aspirational and elevated," said Vincent Montemarano, vice president of franchise sales, planning and marketing for Gap Inc. Prices for Banana Republic, as for the Gap, are about 8 to 10 percent higher than in the U.S.

"It is [an elevated look and positioning] here,'' said Rosemary Kovacsofsky, marketing manager for Banana Republic. "From a store design perspective, we've taken the best of our stores in North America and the best of Japan, and we've melded this brand new package that we feel is the most sophisticated [store concept] to date. We've really tried to push the envelope a bit with our franchise stores. Since we have a fewer amount of stores, we can focus more on the details."

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