HOME SPEED HOME: Although fast-fashion specialist Inditex isn’t quite ready to spill all the beans, a spokeswoman for Zara Home said its new housewares and home fabrics division will launch in roughly 15 new Spanish stores by the end of August or early September. Other countries will ultimately be added to the line’s retail roster.

Existing Zara units will not house the product lines "because there is no room," she explained. "The idea is to bring fashion into the home by introducing beautiful, carefully chosen items. Obviously, the merchandise won’t move as fast as the apparel categories, but new products will be introduced on a seasonal basis [or twice a year]."

Roughly 70 percent of the line’s product mix will feature home textiles such as bed and kitchen linens, tablecloths, blankets and curtains. The balance will include such household items as glassware, decorative boxes, candles, trays, picture frames and cutlery. — Barbara Barker

GREAT SCOT: Following a successful debut on Bond Street last fall, Pringle of Scotland has unveiled a second London unit on Sloane Street. The 5,500-square-foot, two-level unit bowed Friday near such retail neighbors as Chloé and Patrick Cox. Designed by the folks responsible for the überhip Sketch club, the Sloane Street store has its quirks. There’s an indoor swing, several trees that have been planted to look like they’re growing out of the limestone floor and a bunker in the basement where golf fanatics can watch live action on a TV screen.

"The site offers us a great opportunity to access the upper end of the golf and leisure market that exists in this very international and cosmopolitan area of London," said Bill Christie, head of retail for Pringle.

The new store houses women’s, baby and dogwear on the ground floor, and men’s wear and Pringle of Scotland Golf in the basement. A selection of vintage golfing attire from the Pringle archives is also on sale. — Sarah Harris

BEST WISHES: Denmark’s Bestseller chain — specializing in smart casual clothes for women and men — is hoping to strike it big in China, where it has opened 80 shops within the past six months alone. Carrying such brands as Vero Moda, Vila, Jack and Jones, Exit and Only, Bestseller over the past six years has opened 300 outlets in 50 Chinese cities, including 70 in Shanghai. "The goal is to have 850 outlets in China in three years’ time," said Troels Holch Povlsen, Bestseller’s chief executive.The shops are run by Bestseller China — a joint venture between Bestseller and two Danish entrepreneurs based in China — which is exporting the company’s Nordic retail concept lock, stock and barrel, but retains a group of Chinese designers to adapt the clothes for local needs. Bestseller boasts annual global sales of around $1.3 billion. In Europe, the company has more than 900 shops, with most sales generated in the Nordic region and The Netherlands. Worldwide, the group is expecting to open 240 stores this year after adding around 210 in 2002. — Poul Larsen

DOWNTICKING: The watch market, facing a gloomy 2003, is officially off to a slow start. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reported that watch exports were down 5.1 percent to $1.5 billion in the three months ended March 31. Dollar figures are converted from Swiss francs at current exchange. In units, exports were up 0.3 percent to 6.2 million watches.

By geographic region, the value of exports to China zoomed up 179.8 percent; 14.2 percent to Russia, and 6.8 percent to the U.S. But exports fell in several key markets: Germany was down 26.6 percent; Italy, 12.2 percent, and Singapore, 19.3 percent. In Hong Kong, the number-one destination for Swiss watches, exports, inched up 0.5 percent. — Emilie Marsh

CONTINENTAL CLAUDE: Claude Montana, the Paris fashion house, has signed a licensing agreement with France’s Ecce to produce and distribute its men’s line in Europe, Russia and the Middle East. Ecce, which produces Kenzo men’s wear in a joint venture, is slated to begin distribution with the summer 2004 selling season. Baumler used to hold the Montana license. Montana, which is owned by French entrepreneur Jean-Jacques Layani, has been quietly trying to reinvent itself over the last few seasons. — Robert Murphy

NOT SO FAST: Citing a difficult economy in Europe, French fast-fashion firm Etam said its first-quarter sales slowed 2.7 percent to $280.7 million. Dollar figures have been converted from euros at current exchange. The figures also reflect the discontinuation of its 123 Lingerie chain. Still, on a like-for-like basis, business was down 2.1 percent. Currency fluctuation had a negative impact. At constant rates of exchange and structure, sales would have inched up 0.9 percent. The Etam group operates 1,399 stores in Europe, the Middle East and China under the Etam, 123 and Tammy banners. — E.M.STREETS OF ITALY: Fubu is coming to Italy. The urban streetwear line will be distributed by Wage Italia in more than 60 stores in the country starting this summer. Next year, the first Fubu freestanding store will open in Milan, followed by four flagships in 2005 and five more in 2006. Fubu’s products range from bags and perfumes to watches and T-shirts. The company was founded in Queens, N.Y., by Daymond John 11 years ago. Today, it has sales of $500 million a year and 52 stores worldwide. — Luisa Zargani

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