BEVERLY HILLS — YSL is going big on Rodeo.Executives at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche confirmed Wednesday it has signed a lease for a 3,600-square-foot space at 326 North Rodeo Drive, with plans to more than double the unit’s size to approximately 8,400 square feet through an addition to the building.Real estate sources said the luxury firm signed the lease last month. Representatives at the Gucci Group division confirmed the company is making its way through the Beverly Hills planning commission process to expand the former Bernini Sport store. The new YSL door is expected to be two stories, with the top floor a dedicated VIP room. An opening date has not been set, but construction is expected to be completed during the first half of 2003.After months of searching, YSL chose a prime spot. The unit is a block north of Wilshire Boulevard, directly across the street from Gucci, Prada and Giorgio Beverly Hills. It’s flanked by two jewelry stores — Chopard, slated to open this year, and David Orgell.The design concept will closely follow that of the New York flagship at 855 Madison Avenue, according to the company. That store was designed by YSL’s creative director Tom Ford and architect William Sofield. Its standout features include black lacquered walls, raw concrete floors and hunks of polished coal turned into display tables. All YSL product categories will be stocked in Beverly Hills, including women’s ready-to-wear, fragrance, beauty, timepieces, sunglasses and men’s wear.While the Beverly Hills store will be sizable, it is the exception, not the rule, that luxury firms seek large spaces on Rodeo Drive these days, according to Chuck Dembo, a partner at Dembo & Associates, the retail specialty leasing firm that facilitated the YSL deal.Dembo said Coogi Australia, the high-end sweater maker, recently bowed out of taking the 20,000-square-foot former Tommy Hilfiger space that’s been vacant since February 2001."I think [large units] was the story a little while back," he said. "Now, a lot of companies aren’t looking for the monster stores. There’s an abundance of companies looking for 1,000 to 2,000-square- foot stores."Still, sources expect the YSL unit to do well with projected sales of between $700 and $800 per square foot annually, or $6 to $7 million.This is YSL’s fourth store on the West Coast, following locations in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Costa Mesa, Calif. As reported, Gucci Group chairman and chief executive officer Domenico De Sole is taking YSL’s number of directly operated stores from 43 to more than 50 worldwide. The Beverly Hills store will be the ninth in the U.S. by next year. "I believe this brand can become as strong as Gucci," De Sole told WWD in March.

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