By  on June 21, 2007

AG Adriano Goldschmied is having a growth spurt in Florida.

The South Gate, Calif.-based denim and sportswear collection opened its first freestanding store in Miami Beach this month. It plans to launch a 2,600-square-foot store in Naples, Fla., in the fall, and one of the same size in Orlando next spring.

Florida trails only New York and California in performance, said Frank Pizzurro, vice president of retail.

"We're looking to create eight to 10 stores per year," in the U.S. and Europe, he said. "We believe Miami will be one of the top stores with first-year sales of $1.5 [million] to $2 million.…the whole region is important."

The brand is carried at better specialty boutiques and chains such as Anthropologie and major stores, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Pizzurro believes the opening of freestanding units also should have a positive impact on wholesale clients.

"In most places we've opened, wholesale activity has actually increased due to brand recognition," he said.

The company invested more than a year searching for the right location in Miami Beach. The Bal Harbour Shops was a no-go because of the low turnover rate among tenants. Pizzurro felt that Lincoln Road was more closely associated with dining and entertainment than apparel. Instead, he chose a vacant Washington Avenue address that was once home to a Versace Jeans Couture store, a vestige of the Art Deco district's renaissance in the Nineties.

"We liked that the Versace space was an icon and offered high visibility and proximity to Lincoln Road and Collins Avenue," Pizzurro said, though he admitted some concern about the street's traffic and nightclubs. "It's a bit of a risk, but someone had to make the move. The city's putting in new streets, sidewalks and landscaping, too."

The store's design keeps the original coffered ceiling and tiled facade, while its campy gate and canopy were refashioned with AG's logo and metal textured-like woven fabric. Cement floors, a glass-topped table filled with used denim and walls painted white or covered in glass shelving, brown leather and stainless steel are in keeping with the brand's retail concept. There also is a modern chandelier of 25 clear globes and a window display of hanging miniature pastel jeans. The store's glass checkout counter is filled with colorful pumice stones that are used to wash its jeans.In addition, there is a 62-inch flat-screen TV, a coffee and juice bar and an on-site sewing machine dipped in 18-karat gold with a full-time seamstress to hem jeans while customers wait, which falls more in line with designer than casual apparel stores, noted Pizzurro.

"Most people wouldn't expect a denim store to have these perks and attentive salespeople, but that's the image we're going for," he said.

In Miami, popular tops like a cap-sleeved tunic in pima cotton and ribbed razorback tank sell for $42 and $48, respectively, alongside clean canvas belts in multiple colors with silver D-rings for $68, the season's most successful style. A cropped cardigan in gray or natural lightweight cashmere blew out the first week at $325.

"They're made in Italy through Loro Piana knitwear, which is very high quality," Pizzurro said. "We'll also introduce knit dresses this summer, which should be a hit in tropical climates."

Accessories and shoes will also debut within the year. "We're still deciding if we want to make them in-house or license them," he said.

Denim draws locals and tourists familiar with the brand. Miami serves as a test site for the Gamin, a flared-leg style without back pockets in black or white for $168 that Pizzurro described as "a sexy club jean." There are exclusive short shorts and more choices in white, colors and 8- to 9-oz. denim.

Another hit is Stilt, a skinny, midrise cut in traditional denim colors or brights like red and yellow.

"Color interests them more here than our other markets and we plan to introduce more nondenim or lightweight denim items here, as well as L.A.," he said.

The company, which operates seven stores and six outlets in the U.S., is set to expand with units in Manhattan, Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Troy, Mich., over the next year. Pizzurro also is looking in Europe. The company opened a wholesale office in Milan in 2006.

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