LONDON — De Beers LV is ready to storm the U.S. jewelry market.
The diamond jewelry joint venture between the South African trading company and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton will make its long-awaited U.S. debut in June, with a 6,000-square-foot store on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan. In October, it will open a similar unit on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
Over the next five years, the company plans to roll out 20 more stores in the U.S., measuring 2,000 to 2,500 square feet, in cities including Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco and Palm Beach, Fla. The company is also mulling wholesale distribution through department stores and independent retailers.
By 2010, De Beers LV expects the U.S. to be its largest market, generating at least 40 percent of sales.
“The U.S. is clearly our main priority and we have very strong ambitions there,” Guy Leymarie, chief executive officer of De Beers LV, said in an interview, his first since joining the company in March 2004.
“The market makes up 57 percent of the world’s diamond jewelry consumption and we think we can convince those customers to buy De Beers LV,” Leymarie said over a cup of espresso in his spare, functional office next door to the De Beers LV store on the corner of Bond Street and Piccadilly here.
De Beers LV has backup: Leymarie said investment on behalf of the joint venture partners has been raised from $400 million to $500 million for the next 10 years.
The company has named Alyce Alston ceo of De Beers LV USA, a division of De Beers LV. Alston was formerly group publisher of W, W Jewelry and Vitals magazines which, like WWD, are owned by Advance Publications Inc. Alston will oversee the U.S. launch of the brand as well as U.S. retail operations.
The company has also named Hamida Belkadi as vice president of sales and marketing for De Beers LV USA. Belkadi, whose responsibilities include product merchandising and retail operations, will work in the New York office and report to Alston. Belkadi was most recently Cartier’s head of marketing for jewelry in the U.S.
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