LONDON — De Beers LV’s store rollout is on track, although the firm’s owners are taking a slow and steady approach to retail.

Alain Lorenzo, chief executive of De Beers LV, the joint venture between the diamond company and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said Thursday that, as planned, three units would open simultaneously in Tokyo this September.

In the second half of 2004, a De Beers LV unit will open in Manhattan on the corner of 5th Avenue and 55th Street.

In an exclusive telephone interview Thursday, Lorenzo sought to clarify statements made by LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault two weeks ago suggesting that retail rollout plans for the joint venture had been put on ice.

The shop-in-shops to be opened in Tokyo, which span about 1,080 square feet each, will be located within the country’s major department stores: at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi, Matsuya in Ginza and Isetan in Shinjuku.

“Our rollout strategy is about controlled developments,” Lorenzo told WWD. “We wanted to get the London store right before opening in Japan. Now we will focus on getting the Japanese stores right. We need to understand our markets and how each store works.”

As reported, De Beers LV opened its first, 7,500-square-foot store on the corner of Piccadilly and Old Bond Street last November.

Lorenzo said getting the London store “right” meant adjusting the lighting around mirrors and windows, fine-tuning the merchandising, and ensuring the store is run as efficiently as possible. “A lot of the kinks were operational and practical,” he said.

The reasons De Beers LV decided to open three stores in Japan, he said, are three-fold: “Tokyo is huge, and has very distinct shopping areas, each with a different type of clientele. In addition, we had a lot of interest from the country’s main department stores, and we thought it would be a good idea to do the media and p.r. launches for all three stores at the same time.”

Next year, De Beers LV will move into the space currently occupied by Louis Vuitton in Manhattan. “We are not stopping with New York,” Lorenzo said. “Long term, we want to be in the main cities around the world, but it’s crucial that we get each store right before moving on to the next,” he said.

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