BERLIN — Tommy Hilfiger proved doors can open as well as close during a recession when the fashion house unveiled its largest European store in the German city of Cologne.

This story first appeared in the April 6, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Times are tough for all retailers at the moment,” admitted Daniel Grieder, chief executive of Tommy Hilfiger Europe. “But our customers still like our brand….They appreciate the collection’s good value for money and the fact that we are always offering something new.”

The brand is well positioned to remain strong, he added, because of the balance between its wholesale and retail businesses, the broad price range and the variety of collections, from denim to tailored.

Spread over three floors and covering 10,624 square feet, the flagship has updated Tommy Hilfiger’s retail concept by devoting upstairs to women’s wear, including corners with special collections, lingerie and accessories. Kids and denim are in the basement and men’s wear is on the ground floor, with classic items such as sweaters and polo shirts at the front and more fashion-orientated collections toward the back. Some limited editions will only be stocked in the flagship stores, alongside the complete current collections.

Tommy Hilfiger has been steadily increasing the number of doors over the past decade; in the first half of 2008 alone the label opened 50 stores, bringing the number of outlets worldwide to over 850. In Germany, Hilfiger now has 60 stores, one of the reasons why the label decided to open its largest European flagship here.

“Germany is our strongest market in Europe,” explained Grieder. “The product works and all our stores here are very successful.”

Last year’s rapid expansion contributed to record sales in 2008. For the six-month period to Sept. 30, the most recent reported sales were up 30.5 percent to 755 million euros, or $1.16 billion. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at average rates for the period.

As a result of the economic crisis, sales since then have slowed. Although Tommy Hilfiger has not yet released sales figures for the second half, Grieder said the latest results wouldn’t quite match those seen previously.

Grieder is nonetheless optimistic about the brand’s present and future development. So much so he confirmed the label’s largest store in the world would open on New York’s Fifth Avenue later this year. “This flagship store will be even bigger and more spectacular than the one in Cologne. It will be the mother of all our stores worldwide,” he said.

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