By  on November 27, 2007

LONDON — Karen Millen is planning an extended stay on U.S. shores.

The upmarket British retailer, which already has six freestanding U.S. stores, will open an American flagship in New York's SoHo next month, and the company plans to roll out 50 to 75 freestanding units and concept shops nationwide within the next three years.

"We're in it for the long run," said Sanjay Sharma, the company's international director.

Today, Millen has 100 stand-alone stores and shops-in-shops in the U.K. and 85 stores and shops-in-shops globally. Sharma declined to give sales figures or projections, but industry sources say Millen's current annual turnover is approximately $350 million.

Opening day for Millen's New York store is Dec. 8, and the official launch event is planned in March to introduce the new spring lines. The 2,800-square-foot store will be housed in what used to be the Mimi Fertz gallery at 112-114 Prince Street, between Wooster and Greene Streets. Sharma said he had been eyeing the property for years, due to its prime location, foot traffic and ambience.

"The space was really important to us. We wanted to get it right," he said.

The store was designed by Brinkworth Design, the architectural firm that has handled all of Millen's retail spaces. The shop has a light, airy feel with wood flooring, matte-finish glass and original features from the existing building. Cocktail dresses, trenchcoats and handbags are expected to be popular items, Sharma said.

"It's nice because it is Karen Millen, but with that New York feel, too," he said, adding he was already scouting venues uptown for a second New York location and potential store sites in Los Angeles that should bow by the end of next year.

Sharma said the brand used its six existing U.S. stores as a litmus test before expanding further in the American market. "We wanted a soft launch. We have been very cautious, as the U.S. has traditionally been the graveyard for British retailers expanding. We wanted to be credible, and slowly build brand recognition. We wanted to understand our consumer," he said.

Sales at the current stores — in Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Short Hills, N.J., and the Beverly Center in L.A. — have outperformed expectations, he said.

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