By  on October 16, 2006

MILAN — Jil Sander is boosting its profile in Italy as part of a larger-scale project to reposition and expand its retail network.

The brand last week inaugurated its first Rome store on Via del Babuino following a soft opening in September. The 2,152-square-foot space carries the full line of women's apparel and prominently features accessories, shoes and cosmetics, product lines the brand has earmarked for growth. The company expects the directly operated store to post sales of 5 million euros, or $6.25 million at current exchange, in the first year. The Rome store is the brand's third boutique in Italy, joining a recently opened Naples store and the Milan flagship.

"Italy is a very important market for us, making up 11 percent of our sales," Jil Sander chief executive Gian Giacomo Ferraris said.

Jil Sander creative director Raf Simons currently is working on a new store concept for the brand, which should be unveiled next year in a London flagship, the ceo said.

The fashion company has a worldwide network of 33 freestanding stores and shop-in-shops, 19 of which are directly operated. The remaining 14, including the Naples store, are run by franchisees. Another Jil Sander flagship will open in Frankfurt this February.

The brand also is rethinking other retail locations. The four-level Paris flagship on Avenue Montaigne, which Ferraris deemed is too large, will be closed and a smaller store will open on the same strip early next year. The brand is currently scouting London locations after shuttering a Savile Row flagship last year.

"We are determining the best location for us," Ferraris said.

London-based private equity fund Change Capital Partners bought Jil Sander from Prada in February.

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