Vuitton Gets Bigger in Hawaii

The newly renovated Louis Vuitton store at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu opening today is triple the size and filled with bells and whistles.

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NEW YORK — The newly renovated Louis Vuitton store at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu opening today is three times the size of the previous location and filled with lots of bells and whistles, some inspired by the company’s uberflagship on the Champs-Elysées, which opened last week.

The two-level, 7,500-square-foot Ala Moana unit is expected to do between $50 million and $100 million in annual sales, said Jean-Marc Gallot, chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton North America. “It’s close to the New York flagship on 57th Street, but New York is the capital of the world,” said Gallot.

Louis Vuitton is popular enough in Hawaii to support six stores, with units also at Honolulu Gumps, Honolulu Hilton, Maui Lahaina, Maui Wailea and Waikoloa.

“We have gigantic sales of Louis Vuitton in Hawaii,” Gallot said. “Hawaii contributes more than 20 percent of [total] sales in North America. The Hawaiian market is absolutely key and essential because of the future. We see a recovery of Japanese tourists to pre-9/11 levels. There’s been a 5 percent increase year to date.”

Yet the Hawaiian market has changed significantly since the terror attacks and SARS dampened the desire of Japanese to travel. Vuitton’s business now is made up of more local clients and visitors from the mainland than Japanese. In the next five years, more and more business will come from the mainland U.S., Gallot predicted.

The Ala Moana store has polished stainless steel and leather accents, an LED video column and two-story display of antique trunks surrounded by a metal mesh curtain. Like the Champs-Elysées flagship, the store is a combination of large areas and intimate spaces. Glass with the monogrammed Louis Vuitton flower pattern backed by a mirror creates a moire effect on the facade. From a distance, a graphic of a large flower is visible.

The store is adding women’s ready-to-wear and jewelry collections and is the first location to launch sunglasses in North America. The collection will roll out to other stores on Nov. 1. “It’s a strategic launch,” Gallot said. “We believe this market is huge.”

There’s a trend at Vuitton toward larger stores in order to display its full product spectrum. The Champs-Elysées flagship is 20,500 square feet. In the Far East, a store in Hong Kong’s Landmark building was expanded and a boutique at China World in Beijing is more than doubling. Vuitton is doubling the size of its store at the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a unit at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., also will be doubled in size. New stores are planned for the Collection at Chevy Chase in Washington in November and the Pier at Caesars in Atlantic City in May.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We prefer to open a reasonably sized store and support the business, and then enlarge them,” Gallot said. “We believe Louis Vuitton has to be able to offer rtw, shoes, watches, jewelry, sunglasses and leather products. When you want to make a statement, you need a certain space.”

Leased departments in department stores are also getting the once-over. Where the average leased Vuitton department is 500 square feet, the area will expand to 1,500 square feet and women’s shoes will be added. The first of these will be unveiled at Macy’s Herald Square next month.

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