NEW YORK — Gruppo La Perla, the Bologna, Italy-based manufacturer and retailer of luxury lingerie, swimwear, hosiery and women’s apparel, last month opened its third La Perla boutique in the U.S. this year at 93 Greene Street here.

The airy 2,200-square-foot boutique is expected to generate sales between $1.5 million and $2 million the first full year, said Gianluca Flore, president and chief executive officer of the La Perla USA unit.

Designed by Milan-based architect Gabriele Buratti, the shop represents a new contemporary format with red-tinted mirrors; black lacquer and silver chrome display units; blond wood floors and accessories drawers, and a skylight roof at the back that provides ultrasoft light. Lining up across the high ceilings leading front to back of the sprawling long-line room is a row of black futuristic lights, which Flore describes as an "upside-down runway."

"The look and ambience is clean and simple looking and it really gives greater importance to the merchandise on the selling floor. Thus, the products become the room," said Flore.

So far, La Perla, which generates overall annual wholesale volume of approximately $300 million, maintains 63 freestanding stores worldwide, and has shops in Miami, Chicago, Boston, Beverly Hills and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., and on Madison Avenue in New York. Flore said the company plans to open four additional boutiques in the U.S. from 2003 to 2004 in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Dallas and Houston.

"This new boutique on Greene Street is younger in feeling. We wanted to capture a new generation of consumers. The La Perla customer who is a mother will shop at our Madison Avenue store, while her daughter will come to Greene Street."

Both New York units sell intimate apparel, swimwear, hosiery and sleepwear bearing the La Perla names, as well as secondary labels Malitzia and Marvel. The year-old Occhi Verdi label, a young-contemporary line of intimates, is currently sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Occhi Verdi will be available at Bloomingdale’s in 2003.

Flore acknowledged the retail climate was generally flat, but said La Perla’s combined wholesale and retail sales this year are projected to be 10 percent higher than a year ago, and he forecasted single-digit sales gains in 2003.Flore further noted that at a time when luxury businesses are generally suffering: "They are talking about crisis management and the bad economy. But we believe in investing in our U.S. businesses and have faith in them. After Sept. 11, everybody was questioning what’s going to happen to European businesses that invest in America. We see the U.S. market and its consumers recognize us.

"It took us close to one year to finish building this store. It’s something we are proud of because it’s fresh and different looking, and everything except the light fixtures were brought in from Italy," said Flore.

A breakfast reception and informal modeling will be hosted by invitation at La Perla’s Greene Street shop on Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

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