RUSSIAN DRESSING: The Metro Group, Germany’s largest retail group (and fourth largest in apparel sales), opened its first Metro Cash & Carry store in Saint Petersburg, Russia, last week. A second Saint Petersburg door is slated for June.

Metro has been active in Russia since 2001, and operates three Metro Cash & Carry units in Moscow. A company spokesman in Düsseldorf said it expects to open more locations in Russia, noting that sales are "well over budget." Metro’s Cash & Carry stores are no-frills warehouse spaces stocking groceries, apparel and other nonfood items for the "professional public." A pass is required for entry and is issued to restaurants, companies and self-employed persons.

Metro operates 443 Cash & Carry doors in 24 countries, including most of Europe plus China, Vietnam, Japan, Morocco and Turkey. The Cash & Carry division contributed $26.6 billion, or 45 percent of total group sales in 2002, along with earnings before interest and taxes of $787 million out of a total EBIT of $1.3 billion. Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange rates. The Kaufhof department store chain, Media Markt, Saturn, Pratiker and the Real and Extra supermarket chains also belong to the Metro Group.

— Melissa Drier



WIRED FOR STYLE: Nordic clothing manufacturers are seeing the future, and it’s wired, as in ski caps with a built-in earpiece for a mobile phone and tracksuits that monitor heart rate and jogging speed via "smart" fabrics. Finland’s Reima, which specializes in outerwear, already offers a neck-leash-cum-earpiece, called Wearaphone, as well as WearLink, a heart rate transmitter inside a textile strap. Among others eyeing the emerging "e-wear" segment is Danish sportswear firm Hummel, mulling the development of soccer clothes with built-in chips that would allow the coach to monitor in real-time players’ running patterns on the pitch. Clothing firms in northern Europe spy an opportunity to team up with tech companies, like Nokia and Ericsson, and carve a niche with global growth prospects. Development director Preben Mejer of Danish telecommunications group TDC — which is involved in a project to create intelligent clothing for firefighters — reckons that smart clothing could bump up sales by as much as 5 percent annually for the Danish clothing industry.— Poul Larsen



FRENCH TOAST: Retail fared only modestly in France last year, according to a new tally of sales by Insee, the national statistics agency. In particular, the average sales growth rate for nonfood specialty stores, excluding pharmaceutical products, slowed to 2.2 percent in volume compared with 4.1 percent in 2001. Sales growth at clothing and shoe stores also slowed, to 2.7 percent from 5.9 percent in 2001. Volume totals were not disclosed. However, fashion stores outperformed home appliance retailers (up 1.6 percent), and home improvement stores (up 1.9 percent). In total, retail activity grew 1.5 percent last year, against 2.3 percent in 2001. — Emilie Marsh



NOT SO FLY: The conflict in Iraq and the SARS epidemic disrupted air traffic outside of Europe, but not so much within. The Association of European Airlines, which represents 29 airlines, said overall passenger traffic was off 4.5 percent in March versus a year ago. Travel within Europe dropped by 5 percent and North Atlantic travel posted a 3.2 percent decline. More dramatically, travel to the Middle East fell 34.4 percent and to North Africa, 20.5 percent. But the impact of SARS was harsher in the first three weeks of April, when traffic to the Far East dropped 28 percent versus a year ago. — Emilie Kafka



BODY CONSCIOUS: Selfridges is set to celebrate the human form with a monthlong event called Body Craze. Starting on Wednesday, the London and Manchester stores will unveil a series of exhibitions, performances, beauty treatments and interactive events that focus on body art, beauty and the relationship between body and soul. "We want to explore the fascination and obsession with the body. It’s an all-embracing idea," said Susanne Tide-Frater, head of creative direction at the store. Events include videotaped comments from Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Sophia Kokosalaki and Junya Watanabe on how they approach fashion. Britain’s Random Dance Company will perform live in the store, while the Dutch performance artist Cees Krijnen will create live window displays. Customers will be able to try tanning booths, massage, aromatherapy, Chinese Medicine and Botox treatments. Tattooing will be available for the more adventurous. Previous in-store exhibitions were entitled Bollywood and Tokyo Life.— Ellen Burney

WASH AND WEAR: Marks and Spencer’s machine-washable men’s suit is making a splash. Late last month, the suit won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category, and an M&S spokesman said it is the fastest-selling suit at the store. The suit also has been the motor behind men’s wear sales: The retailer said suit sales have doubled year-on-year since the machine-washable model was launched in 2001. The suit, made from a lightweight wool blend, took two years to develop. There are two jacket shapes available, one priced at $125 and the other at $140, and three trouser styles, which range from $70 to $92. The store has followed the launch of the suit with machine-washable cashmere sweaters and silk ties. — E.B.



SOFA, SO SLIM: Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane has created a mystique as one of the most modern-thinking designers around. Now he’s delving into the field of home design through a new project with Italian furniture giant Cappellini. "There is very little difference for me between a suit and a chair," Slimane said. "It’s all about line and proportions." Slimane declined to discuss specifics, but judging from his clothing collections, the furniture will no doubt be precise, contemporary and sharp. Cappellini chief executive Giulio Cappellini approached Slimane about the project and said that the line would probably consist of five to six "simple but very sophisticated pieces," expected to bow by the end of the year.

— Courtney Colavita

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