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NEW YORK — Surf company Billabong is taking its beach vibe to the street with a new flagship in the heart of Times Square.

The 5,800-square-foot space includes two stores, Billabong and Element, a skateboarding brand owned by Billabong. The units have separate entrances on Broadway between West 44th and 45th Streets, but are connected inside.

“This location is in the hub of the world and gives Billabong a global showcase,” said Paul Naude, president of Billabong USA, a subsidiary of the Australian parent firm Billabong International Ltd. “This is both a retail opportunity and a branding opportunity.”

The Billabong store, which had a soft opening last month, sells merchandise for young men and women, including boardshorts, T-shirts, dresses, tank tops and footwear, as well as jewelry and other accessories. Retail prices range from about $20 to $50. There are also denim pieces and tailored shirts.

The store has an open and airy feel, with beach motifs such as bamboo and rocks incorporated into the design. Pictures of men and women surfing line the walls, and the music is light and upbeat. The store also sells a selection of Billabong’s other brands, including Von Zipper sunglasses and the Honolua Surf Co. apparel.

The Element store has more of an outdoor feel, with darker motifs and hip-hop music playing. Element, which was bought by Billabong in 2001, sells skateboards and skate shoes, as well as apparel for young women and men. This location marks the first store for the brand, said Travis Ford, general manager of the flagship.

Executives declined to give sales projections for the flagship, but Naude said the firm sees it as a significant growth vehicle. Billabong U.S. had sales of about $253 million last year. The U.S. is the Australian firm’s largest division and accounts for some 47 percent of overall volume.

Billabong has 10 U.S. stores, six of which are company-owned and four that are licensed. The Times Square store is operated by licensee Ed Leasure, who runs board sport stores in Florida and along the East Coast. Billabong also owns the Honolua Surf Co. chain, as well as Beach Access, another surf chain, which has stores under the Beach Works nameplate. Naude said Billabong has no immediate plans to open other stores. Its goal is to launch select stores to avoid competing with its wholesale accounts.

This story first appeared in the June 16, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Billabong’s flagship is just three blocks north of the Times Square store of rival Quiksilver. Other traditional surf brands, including Quiksilver and Op, have been changing to become more lifestyle-oriented and address a crowd beyond the beach.

“We see there is a lot of growth in our sector now,” Naude said. “The board-sport sector continues to capture the imagination of the youth market and we don’t see that trend changing. Over the last five years, young women have been a big growth driver for this industry.”

The store is to have a grand opening party tonight, and skateboarders and surfers such as Andy Irons, Mike Vallely and Colt Cannon are expected to attend.

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