NEW YORK — Valentino has arrived in Boston, and Graziano de Boni likes what he sees.
De Boni, president and chief executive officer of Valentino USA, was eager to gain exposure in the Boston market, and when a 3,000-square-foot store on Newbury Street became available in January, he didn’t waste any time signing the lease. The store, which opened last week, is expected to do “north of $1,000 in sales per square foot,” he said.
“The first days were very encouraging,” de Boni said. “We’ve had a steady flow of traffic. A lot of people are curious to see the Valentino store, but we’ve also had some good business.”
De Boni has had his eye on the city because “the entire metro Boston area is pretty much an open field of opportunities,” he said. “Michele [Norsa, ceo of Valentino Fashion Group] and I went there a couple of times. In terms of luxury designer stores, there are a few, but it’s not a crowded market. There’s an opportunity for newcomers to grab some business. It’s a very European city.”
The Valentino store has double-height ceilings and large windows. De Boni said the location on Newbury Street — a Chanel store is on the same block — is the best on the retail thoroughfare. “We fell in love with the location,” he said.
Neiman Marcus had been the brand’s only wholesale account in Boston until Barneys New York opened a flagship at Copley Place in March and began selling Valentino men’s wear.
Several luxury brands have been giving Boston a closer look. In addition to Barneys, Jimmy Choo and Eli Tahari opened stores in the city this year. Nordstrom has plans to enter the Boston area in 2007 with a store in Natick, Mass.
De Boni sees no risk of the store cannibalizing Valentino’s wholesale sales. “We can create new business,” he said. “We will continue selling to Neiman Marcus and Barneys. We’re a strong believer in multichannel distribution. Our presence throughout the country is very limited. This is only our seventh store. High-end, multibrand stores next to mono-brand stores is a complementary strategy.”
Valentino has completed the first stage of its turnaround plan for the U.S., which accounts for 25 percent of sales and is the brand’s single biggest market. The expansion began last year with a new store in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. The company is looking for sites in San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Houston.
“In the future, we’ll open one or two stores a year,” de Boni said. “Eventually, smaller markets will be ripe for Valentino. We still have some key markets where we want to go first.”
Another goal for the company, which had sales of $260 million in 2005, is to develop its accessories business. “It will be crucial to open in secondary markets,” de Boni said. “Accessories is growing more than 40 percent a year.” Red Valentino, the jaunty line geared to a younger customer, is also developing quickly.
“We want to promote the brand to a broader client base,” de Boni said. He said a younger, modern, cutting-edge ad campaign will launch next month. “In the second half of year, we will increase our advertising budget so we get better visibility.”