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Europe Watch: In The Line Of Duty … Show Business … Good Sport …

<b>IN THE LINE OF DUTY:</b> Seizing the current economic downturn to cut its fixed costs, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said last week it succeeded in renegotiating the lease for its DFS duty-free operations in Hawaii. A spokesman declined to...

IN THE LINE OF DUTY: Seizing the current economic downturn to cut its fixed costs, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said last week it succeeded in renegotiating the lease for its DFS duty-free operations in Hawaii. A spokesman declined to say how much of a break LVMH obtained for its 20-odd shops there, but said DFS should save from $56 million to $67.2 million, or 50 million to 60 million euros, from now through 2006. DFS said it maintains its goal of reaching breakeven by the end of the year. The spokesman added that DFS is also renegotiating airport leases in San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong and elsewhere. LVMH recently reported that sales at DFS — battered by the war in Iraq, SARS and weak global tourism — plunged 36 percent at constant exchange rates in the second quarter. — Miles Socha

This story first appeared in the August 18, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

SHOW BUSINESS: In just two seasons, upstart trade shows Bread & Butter and Premium Sportswear Couture have turned Berlin into the new hot spot when it comes to junior, jeans and contemporary fashions. Last month, Bread & Butter drew 18,000 buyers, Premium Sportswear Couture 5,500, and even the upstart Berlin Fashion Week, sponsored by Fubu and organized by Matt Lehitka of Street Voice Group Deutschland, Inc., pulled in around 5,000 visitors, Lehitka said. He’s now planning a fourth exhibition in Berlin for Jan. 16-18, 2004: Fashion Entertainment Week, or FEW for short. To be held in cooperation with Sony Germany, FEW will focus on fashion companies “closely linked to the music and entertainment scene.” Lehitka said he expects around 50 exhibitors to take part at Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz, including Scandinavian and American companies. “Ten years ago, designers created new lines with their new looks, but today, musicians make fashion,” he asserted. “Music clips are today’s fashion shows.” Besides the fashions on view, music events are also being planned — with Sony Entertainment, of course.

— Melissa Drier

GOOD SPORT: Hummel, an 80-year-old Danish firm best known for making gear for soccer and other team sports, is recruiting more fashionable types these days with its four-year-old Hummel Fashion line. Sales have been advancing to the tune of 50 percent a year and the brand is marching into international markets, according to Hummel Fashion commercial director Christian Stadil. From the outset, Stadil relied on viral marketing, getting Hummel fashion on the backs of such celebrities as Robbie Williams, Lisa Marie Presley and Jon Bon Jovi. He said this has helped the brand break into Japan and the U.S. in less than five years. Hummel’s fashion collections include the likes of baggy track pants, as well as traditional zippered track suits festooned with flower prints. Increasingly, the company is zooming in on the women’s fashion market, Stadil says, noting that 70 percent of its upcoming summer 2004 line is targeted at women. Gradually, Hummel has also been moving away from the retro look toward what Stadil now calls “redefined sports fashion.”

— Poul Funder Larsen

TALK OF THE TOWN: British department store John Lewis says it’s seen the future of window display — or rather heard it. The retailer is installing “whispering windows,” which transmit sound and music through plate glass on to the street. Due to impressive trial results at the company’s Peter Jones location in Sloane Square, the noisy windows will roll out to four other stores in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham and London’s Oxford Street flagship this fall. “The retail sector has been looking for a way that allows people to hear as well as see products. After installing whispering windows into our storefront, the number of people who stopped to view our window displays increased by nearly 50 percent during an afternoon of testing,” said Kevin Scully, visual merchandising manager of Peter Jones. He added that sales of audio equipment and televisions increased “significantly.” The technology originated from sonar work developed by the U.S. Navy. So far, John Lewis has only used the device to project music from DVD players and high-end plasma television sets. However, according to the developers of the technology, talking mannequins are just around the corner. — Ellen Burney

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: In a European market that’s tough overall, French sportswear firm Alain Manoukian operates in an especially challenging niche: between fast fashion and designer. The Lyon-based firm said last week its first-half sales fell 4.9 percent to $79.9 million from $84.1 million a year ago. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange. The firm reported sales of 70.9 million euros in the period, versus 74.6 million euros a year ago. Wholesale sales were hit hard, though the level of decline was not disclosed. Retail sales, representing 73 percent of total sales, were up 3 percent. While concentrated in France, the firm operates 117 stores and 50 affiliates in Europe, plus 80 franchises in the rest of the world.

— Emilie Marsh