A view of an Intimissimi area at the new Fifth Avenue flagship it shares with Calzedonia.

NEW YORK Italian innerwear brand Intimissimi, and Calzedonia, a legwear, innerwear and swimwear brand, have opened their first U.S. store, a new three-level, 5,400-square-foot flagship at 601 Fifth Avenue here.

It’s the first step of parent Calzedonia Group‘s U.S. incursion, which will see the unveiling of 10 locations along the East Coast by September. Marcello Veronesi, country manager of Calzedonia USA, said the company is targeting Newbury Street in Boston, Lincoln Road in Miami, and locations in Washington and Philadelphia.

“We’re signing contracts for an additional 20 stores next year,” Veronesi said. “We’re focusing more on malls in the U.S., but for sure, we’re also doing some street locations, like Fifth Avenue.”

“We never wanted to rush into a market before we felt we were ready,” Sandro Veronesi, founder and president of Calzedonia Group, said. “We feel now is the time for us to expand across to the U.S. — we’ve found the right location, and are ready to make a splash.”

Marcello Veronesi elaborated: “We began in 2005 a partnership in the U.S. with Victoria’s Secret, which lasted until 2010. We focused more on Europe because we were missing some countries, then moved east to Hong Kong. Our board decided last year to invest in the U.S. market, which is one of the more balanced markets in the world.”

Powerhouse brands in Europe, Calzedonia, with 4,500 stores in 45 countries, bowed in 1986, while Intimissimi, with 1,400 units, launched 10 years later.

Calzedonia Group operates a company-owned and store franchise model. About 70 percent of the company’s stores are franchised and 30 percent are directly owned. “It depends on the country,” Veronesi said. “In Italy and Spain, 90 percent of stores are company-owned.”

The new Fifth Avenue flagship is something of an anomaly. “We develop brands as stand-alone concepts,” Veronesi said. “On Fifth Avenue, we did a combined store because we found a huge building. For our stores opening in 2018, we’re focusing 70 percent on Intimissimi and 30 Calzedonia. About 16 new stores will be devoted to Intimissimi. The U.S. is a start-up market, so we decided to focus on one brand.”

Veronesi conceded that in the U.S. there’s only one big name — Victoria’s Secret, which has dominated the innerwear market for years. But parent L Brands has seen sales and traffic decline for six consecutive months. June financial figures showed overall sales fell 6 percent to $1.2 billion and comparable-store sales drop 9 percent, mainly due to weak Victoria’s Secret sales.

Calzedonia Group is capitalizing on Victoria’s Secret’s weakness, with Sandro Veronesi publicly declaring that he plans to take on the U.S. brand on its own turf.

“We’re developing more styles to be ready for the U.S. market,” Marcello Veronesi said. “Right now, we’re not changing the product completely, it will be 90 percent the same.

Calzedonia bikini tops are around $45, most bottoms are $25, one-piece swimsuits, $60. All are customizable for $12 with sayings that can be printed on the back side such as #followme and SummerDreams. Intimissimi features bras from $44 to $65 for the Elegant Touch Gioia strapless push-up style. A floral embroidered Elegant Touch bodysuit is $75; a floral embroidery slip, $109, and ruffle cardigan, $65.

“For sure we’re reading a lot of articles that say the retail market in the U.S. is sinking,” he added. “I think we have a good track record. This is a nice time for European brands to develop in the U.S., like Inditex.”

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