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Max & Co. Bringing Act to California

Max & Co., the contemporary division of Italian firm Max Mara Fashion Group, has picked Southern California and Las Vegas for its first U.S. stores.

LOS ANGELES — Attention BCBG Max Azria, Maxfield and Maxstudio.com: Another Max is coming to town.

This story first appeared in the April 24, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Max & Co., the 17-year-old contemporary division of Italian luxury firm Max Mara Fashion Group with 350 stores stretching from Europe to Asia, has picked this region for its first few U.S. stores.

Max Mara USA president Guglielmo Melegari, who was in town to host several charity events on behalf of the $1.2 billion privately held parent, said Wednesday the company has chosen three locations in California and one in Las Vegas. They will bow by fall.

The first store is expected to open at the Beverly Center in West Hollywood by the end of July. Two more stores, one at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and one at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, are slated for summer debuts. A fourth unit will join the Oct. 7 opening of Mandalay Place, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s new midtiered 100,000-square-foot shopping complex in Las Vegas.

“California is one of the best contemporary markets for younger contemporary products in the U.S.,” said Melegari, noting the company wants to test stores located within an hour-long flight of one another. “We’re not opening freestanding locations and, again, California is the market that presented the strongest and best shopping centers in a concentrated geographic area.”

The goal is to open between 40 and 50 units in the U.S., with New York and Florida the next target markets, within five or six years. There are also plans to wholesale the line to U.S. retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York.

The four stores, running from 2,000 to 2,500 square feet, are projected to pull in annual sales of between $800 and $1,000 per square foot, or between $6.4 million and $10 million each, Melegari said.

Store interiors will be minimalist, clean and bright with a touch of color. “We want the stores to be fun,” Melegari said.

Max & Co., which is not considered a Max Mara diffusion line but a separate and distinct concept, targets fashion savvy 20- to 35-year olds with an emphasis on quality fabrics.

Simone Quadro, the chain’s buyer, said she has tailored the product offerings to western tastes, including fitted, sexy silhouettes in brighter colors and lighter fabrics. “It’s for the customer who wants something for the weekend and the right suit for her job, but always with trend interest,” she said.

Typical products include miniskirts at $60 to $120, cargos tagged $120 to $170 and tweed coats ranging from short versions at $300 to long at $520. Eighties-inspired jeans will be marked $90 to $150.

Melegari shrugs off any confusion Max & Co. and similarly named chains might pose to the West Coast consumer. “A pretty high percentage of sales,” will be reinvested in advertising. Campaigns will comprise direct mail, magazine and outdoor, he said. “And if they find out that we are connected to Max Mara, that only works to our advantage. There are already a lot of consumers who are familiar with our brand.”