Louis Vuitton Enters New Markets

Louis Vuitton?s U.S. retail network is going through another growth spurt.

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Louis Vuitton’s U.S. retail network is going through another growth spurt.

This story first appeared in the October 28, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

By the end of this year, the luxury goods house will have opened four additional boutiques, in Charleston, S.C.; Hartford, Conn., and Sacramento and Santa Barbara, Calif. The openings, which represent new markets for Vuitton, will bring the total number of U.S. stores to 130.

In Charleston, where a unit was opened at the Shops at Charleston Place late last month, the company unveiled a new, localized retail concept that pays homage to the city and its historic environs. For its interior, Vuitton executives sourced antique mirrors and furniture from local dealers. The resulting 4,300-square-foot space feels more like an apartment, with smaller rooms separated by passage archways and accented with Louis Vuitton trunks.

A similar localized store concept already exists in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district.

“Charleston is a strong tourist market for the U.S.,” said Daniel Lalonde, president and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton North America. “We integrated the store with its local environment, and it’s also the first store in North America where we did a residential concept.”

The store offers leather goods as well as accessories such as textiles, eyewear, fashion jewelry and belts. Lalonde said there is room to evolve the unit and bring in additional categories in the future.

“We thought it fits in beautifully in this historical part of Charleston,” he added. “Maybe we will integrate some components of it in some of our future stores. We wanted to use it as a first execution, and we will see where it can apply to Louis Vuitton North America afterwards.”

Earlier this month, the company opened a 2,500-square-foot unit at La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara. In mid-November, it will unveil a 2,900-square-foot unit at Westfarms Mall in Farmington, Conn. — its first store in the state.

“Typically, we look at where our current customer is shopping, and we identified Hartford-based customers,” he said. “We will keep our eyes open for other parts of Connecticut.”

In late November, the company will open a 4,000-square-foot space at the Galleria at Roseville in Roseville, Calif. “We identified a strong customer base there as well,” Lalonde said of the store, which will cater to the Sacramento community. “Sacramento is an important city, and, of course, the capital.

“These are markets for us we are not present in and know we have a customer base in,” Lalonde added.

More openings are planned for next year, though Lalonde declined to disclose specifics.

Asked about the current state of business, Lalonde referred to a recent third-quarter revenue report of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which underscored the business’s continued robustness. “The business has been solid and it’s been good,” Lalonde said.

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