MELBOURNE, Australia — The bunnies are hopping Down Under.
About 250 people converged on trendy Chapel Street in the South Yarra shopping strip last month to toast the arrival of the world’s third freestanding Playboy Concept Boutique.
The 27,000-square-foot Melbourne boutique is the world’s biggest Playboy store and the first in Australia. It isn’t as flamboyant as the campy, 20,000-square-foot Las Vegas boutique that opened in May or as trendy as the three-year-old, 24,000-square-foot unit in Tokyo.
On hand to greet guests at the opening party in Melbourne were Playmate of the Year Tiffany Fallon and actor Johnny Knoxville, who was in Australia to promote the release of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Aaron Duncan, Playboy’s vice president and creative director of global licensing, who was here for the launch, said stores in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, Malasia, are expected to open by year’s end. The rollouts are part of what Duncan said is a “minimum” 13-store Playboy Concept Boutique campaign over the next three years.
“We’re talking about the world market, we’re not talking about having two or three stores in every world city,” Duncan said. “We’re talking [in each case] about a profitable, strategic location. It’s not just for image, it has to make money. That’s key.”
An important ingredient of that strategy will be the expansion of Playboy Pink and White label lingerie, as well as a new eveningwear collection called Playboy Icon.
The Melbourne unit was designed by Playboy Enterprise’s Australian retail licensee, Christopher Chronis, who predicted the store would generate $2 million in first-year sales. If the store meets target, Chronis said the plan will be to open Playboy stores in Sydney and on Queensland’s Gold Coast within 12 months as part of an ambitious 10- to 12-store rollout Chronis has for Australia and New Zealand over the next five years.
Regarding the stores’ format, similarities exist among the three stand-alones here and in Las Vegas and Tokyo, courtesy of WalkerGroup’s interiors for the concept: futuristic zebrawood-and-silver merchandising cubes, and white lacquer fixturing and mirrored tiled walls.
Melbourne has two other points of difference. It’s the first store to use the new rabbit-head logo-emblazoned Playboy carpet and the first to sell Playboy’s new high-end Playboy Icon eveningwear.
The Playboy Icon collection takes up 20 percent of the store’s floor space and comprises silk cocktail dresses of satin and georgette, often emblazoned with digitally printed graphics incorporating the rabbit-head logo.
“We sell a lot of eveningwear in Europe, as well, [but] this is the launch of our more high-end Icon collection,” Duncan said. “We are starting to do a tiered business. Chris has a great vision and we developed this with him.”
Alongside the Icon range, intimate apparel and casual apparel account for 20 percent each of the merchandise split, with the remainder of the business taken up by jewelry, watches, Playboy bar accessories, swimwear, sunglasses and pet accessories.
“Australia is one of our best markets per sales capita,” Duncan said. “It’s a really large market for us. I’ve been coming to Australia for years and I always think of Australia as the best of a lot of different places. It’s the best of the U.K., the best of America, it’s kind of that gateway to Asia….It seems like an open-minded culture here. Everyone likes to live life to the fullest and that’s key to the Playboy attributes.”