WWD.com/globe-news/retail-features/comptoir-des-cotonniers-enters-us-1835922/
government-trade
government-trade

Comptoir des Cotonniers Enters U.S.

Comptoir des Cotonniers, the French brand owned by Japanese fashion giant Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., has opened its first U.S. store in New York.

View Slideshow

NEW YORK — Comptoir des Cotonniers, the French brand owned by Japanese fashion giant Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., has opened its first U.S. store, at 155 Spring Street here.

The 1,076-square-foot unit is expected to do $2 million in sales in its first year, said Marianne Romestain, Comptoir des Cotonniers’ general director. The retailer will fete the opening on Thursday with a party hosted by Susan Sarandon and her daughter, Eva Amurri.

Designed by an in-house team in France, the collection of casual dresses, trousers, jeans, coats and sweaters has few items priced over $200. “Everything is very wearable and easy to wardrobe,” said Romestain. “We’re very happy with the results since we opened. The street has big traffic and international and American customers. It gives us visibility.”

Comptoir, which operates 340 stores worldwide, plans to open 30 to 40 stores in 2009. About two-thirds of the company’s units are in France. The remainder are in other European countries and Japan. Comptoir is not well known in the U.S., but Romestain is counting on its down-to-earth philosophy — natural fibers such as cotton and wool, and ads in which mothers and daughters were photographed with what appears to be minimal makeup and styling — appealing to new consumers, aged 25 to 65.

“We’re planning to open two more stores in Manhattan this year and we’re starting to discuss [wholesaling the collection] with department stores,” Romestain said, adding she sees the potential for “several dozen” stores in the U.S.

“Comptoir has a very special positioning,” she said, “designer-type merchandise at affordable prices.”

Fast Retailing, which is the parent of Uniqlo, said last year that it was prepared to spend up to $3.5 billion to make acquisitions. The company said its long-term goal is generating sales of 1 trillion yen, or $9.8 billion at current exchange. Since losing out on its bid to acquire Barneys New York last year, Fast Retailing has displayed continued interest in making acquisitions and growing existing businesses.

Comptoir makes an effort to offer styles for both mothers and their daughters. A corduroy top with a delicate flower print is $100, a dress with a low V-neck, $140, and a sweater with an image of Leon, the company’s French bulldog mascot, $135. A navy double-breasted coat with cape detail, $260, and a suede bomber jacket, $490.

Footwear and handbags are growing. A collaboration with the Brazilian firm Veja, yields two shoe styles each season.

The Comptoir unit, which is next door to sister brand Theory, has bleached-wood planks on the floor, and a huge pearlized white vase filled with calla lilies. Romestain said the company favors stores that aren’t large and cavernous. “We like to work in close proximity to customers,” she said. “With a small store, it’s a much more human scale. The sales staff is able to give real advice.”

View Slideshow