By  on December 30, 2008

MILAN — Expansion in the Middle East, further development of Blugirl and investments in its accessories division are top priorities for Blufin SpA, Blumarine’s parent company.

Milan’s first Blugirl flagship and a boutique dedicated to the group’s children’s wear line, Miss Blumarine, will open in Via Spiga here on Feb. 26, next to the long-established Blumarine store. Blugirl, Blufin’s younger ready-to-wear line, will show its fall collection that same day during Milan Fashion Week.

Chief executive officer Gianguido Tarabini, son of the company’s co-founders, designer Anna Molinari and the late Gianpaolo Tarabini, said there will be a new logo for the Blugirl line, which will be unveiled for fall and will mark the evolution of the brand.

“I thought about it a lot, whether it was opportune to change a recognizable logo or not — it’s always very risky,” said Tarabini. However, the executive said he was “very satisfied” with the outcome, which is more in line with the collection.

“This is a quality line that has grown significantly and it now targets an across-the-board customer,” said Tarabini.

For this reason, Tarabini decided to develop a separate distribution for Blugirl. While Blumarine and Blugirl previously were sold in the same stores, the brands are now carried by separate boutiques with distinct and different concepts.

This year, the first Blugirl store opened in Rome, followed by Kiev, Ukraine; shop-in-shops in Japan — in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, and two boutiques in Seoul, South Korea. A Blugirl store will open in Bahrain next year.

Tarabini said the company’s business in the Middle East has grown fivefold over five seasons. In particular, this year showed “a strong and significant” expansion of Blufin’s brands in the region. “For spring-summer 2009, our orders totaled more than 3 million euros [or $4.1 million at current exchange],” said Tarabini.

In that market, the company opened this year one Blumarine store in Dubai, at the Burjuman Centre; one in Bahrain, at the Moda Mall WTC in Manama; one in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at the Centria Mall, and one in Beirut, Lebanon, on the prestigious shopping street Park Avenue.

Next year, Blumarine stores will open in Qatar, at The Pearl of Doha, and in Saudi Arabia, at Saks Fifth Avenue in Jeddah. A second Dubai boutique will open in March, at the Dubai Mall.

“Despite the difficult world economy, which I believe will continue to weigh on the markets for at least the first six months of next year, the Middle East included, we expect to grow in 2009,” said Tarabini.

The company also is banking on its accessories division, production and distribution, which was brought in-house over the past year. “The goal was to offer a top-quality product targeting a medium-high range of the market,” said Tarabini. There are two collections within the division called Main and Flash, and retail prices range from 250 euros, or $347, to 1,900 euros, or $2,641. The company’s key style for spring is the B Bag, a soft, bucket-shaped tote with cascading strips of leather stitched by hand.

“We are only at the onset of this project but the results are very encouraging,” said Tarabini.Orders for spring reached 4 million euros, or $5.5 million, said Tarabini, up from 3.5 million euros, or $4.8 million, the previous season.

“This is a small but significant growth for us,” said Tarabini, noting that accessories account for about 7 percent of the company’s global sales.

He said he expects to close this year with sales “in line” with 2007, at about 100 million euros, or $139 million.Revenues from licensing agreements also grew, reaching 80 million euros, or $111.2 million at current exchange, up from 60 million euros, or $82.2 million at average exchange, last year.

Going into 2009, Tarabini said that “realism and caution are essential to obtain results, especially in difficult moments” such as the current one, which he expects, “optimistically,” to last “for a good part of 2009.” In January, the company will open a sprawling 8,640-square-foot showroom in Milan’s Via Manzoni, in the same building that housed Versace’s offices, complete with marble floors, Liberty-style glass ceilings and a terrace overlooking the Golden Triangle shopping area.

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