By  on September 15, 2008

Plenty of retail activity is keeping executives at Max Mara U.S.A. Inc. busy.

The American division of the Italian fashion house has embarked on an overhaul of its existing Max Mara stores — there are currently 27 — and is moving existing units to larger locales. There are also plans to add new locations.

Last month, Max Mara relocated its Las Vegas unit from the Forum Shops at Caesars to The Shoppes at the Palazzo, the sister hotel to the city’s famed Venetian Hotel. The mall also has the city’s only Barneys New York and is located adjacent to the Wynn Resort.

“The reason we decided to relocate is because we were very intrigued by what the Venetian was doing,” Luigi Caroggio, chief executive officer of Max Mara, said. “They were really putting together a unique group of brands. Meanwhile, our lease from the Forum Shops was due and they couldn’t accommodate the need for more square footage and storefront. We moved from a 2,400-square-foot store to an over-3,000-square-foot unit.”

In mid-November, the company hopes to relocate its Beverly Hills boutique to a larger unit at 451 North Rodeo Drive.

“We are relocating from our current location and moving from the 300s block to the 400s block and from 3,000 square feet to 4,500 square feet over two floors,” Caroggio said. “The landlord is currently building the new structure, which will also feature Loro Piana, and is expected to open late November, early December.”

The Rodeo Drive unit will feature a striking glass and stainless steel storefront, with five different types of glass treatments to create a patterned facade. They include platinum-plated glass, textured glossy glass with a silver back paint, opaque and pearlized glass. Some of the panels will be backlit at night.

Suitable to the region’s needs, it will also feature a VIP dressing room.

“Even though the storefront is unique, there are elements of consistency, including the colors, which are similar to the ones we use for the interiors,” Caroggio said. “We wanted to create a store that could suit the environment of Rodeo Drive.”

On Sept. 1, the company closed down its unit at 175 Post Street in San Francisco. Max Mara will demolish and reconstruct the space, and in the process will add 1,400 square feet of real estate, which formerly housed the adjacent Allen-Edmonds store. For the duration of the construction, which is expected to take 16 weeks, Max Mara temporarily relocated to 135 Maiden Lane.

“For 2009, we are confirmed to do the remodeling of the stores on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago and the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale [Ariz.],” Caroggio said.

He wouldn’t disclose any sales projections for the stores, or volume information for the company, other then to say, “Max Mara is a healthy organization, and the recession is really not affecting our plan. The goal is to introduce the newest image to most parts of the distribution in the next two years.”

The New York flagship, at 813 Madison Avenue, is expected to be updated by 2010.

While Max Mara has no immediate plans to launch into e-commerce, it hopes to unveil an informational Web site about the Italian fashion house in the first quarter of 2009.

As for the company’s future here, Caroggio said, “In the U.S., the priority is to keep developing markets where we know we have a customer. We are not in Colorado, for instance. Aspen and Denver could be great potential markets.”

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