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Asian Invasion

The brand is cementing its position in Asia with a growing retail network and top-tier wholesale accounts.

Beijing’s Calvin Klein store.
Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Milestones issue 09/03/2008

The brand is cementing its position in Asia with a growing retail network and top-tier wholesale accounts.

 

Calvin Klein International has a storied past in Asia — just ask ck Calvin Klein creative director Kevin Carrigan, who travels to Tokyo quarterly and Hong Kong about six times a year. Carrigan, who came here in May to stage a special runway presentation, recalled how the company’s co-founder, Barry Schwartz, established ties with current licensing partner Onward Kashiyama Co. Ltd. back in the Seventies and went on to learn Japanese because he was so fascinated with the country.

“We’re really entrenched in the Japanese market and they really know and trust us,” Carrigan said between trips backstage to oversee models’ exits in floor-length eveningwear and tailored jackets at the presentation. “They really understand our sensibility of modern clothes.”

Calvin Klein’s president and chief operating officer Tom Murry noted Asian customers’ special connection to the brand. “Our customer in Asia tends to be younger than our customer [in the U.S.], and more interested in fashion. But we will often have the same bestsellers all over the world.”

At the end of this year, Calvin Klein Inc. will have a network of 304 freestanding stores across Asia. Murry said the company does about $1.5 billion in retail business a year in the region and plans to grow about 10 percent each year over the next two to three years.

“What we plan and what we actually do, fortunately, are two different things,” Murry said, explaining the brand has been outperforming its past sales targets. “We’ve had 150 percent growth in the past five years in Asia. There was a 23 percent surge in 2007 alone.”

This year, Calvin Klein Inc. plans to post $6 billion in retail sales. About half of that figure is generated in the U.S., while 25 percent comes from Asia, and another 25 percent from Europe. “Through 2010 it feels balanced, but it’s my sense it will skew toward Asia after that,” Murry said.

Murry says the brand plans to continue to expand aggressively in China, where it will have 85 freestanding stores by yearend, and build its less-established retail presence in emerging markets like India and Vietnam, both of which it entered last year.

But the company isn’t overlooking mature markets either. Murry noted the brand is seeing “huge growth” in South Korea, a country where it has had a presence for 20 years. In Japan, the company is expanding the size of its shops-in-shops in department stores, especially the space dedicated to accessories, in partnership with Onward Kashiyama.

A new Calvin Klein Collection Tokyo flagship is slated to open late next year or early 2010. Earlier this year, Murry canvassed the Aoyama or Ginza neighborhoods for potential locations for the new Collection store. The new store will probably be about 4,000 square feet in size, modest in the era of the 10-story luxury flagships popping up in those areas, and will complement the six other Collection stores around the world. One or two Collection shop-in-shops in Japanese department stores are also in the works.