MILAN — Replay is looking East.

The Italian denim and sportswear company plans to open 15 stores in India over the next four years and double its presence in China to 24 stores in two years.

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Gaetano Sallorenzo, in the first interview since his appointment as Replay’s chief executive officer, said the company has signed an agreement with Pantaloon Retail India Ltd., one of the country’s main retailers, to develop its network of stores in that market. Replay made its debut in India on Wednesday with the opening of the brand’s first store at the Select City Mall in New Delhi.

“There is a strong appetite for brands and fashion in India,” said Sallorenzo.

That said, he acknowledged that a quick return on the company’s investment wouldn’t be likely, given the nature of conducting business in India.

“The expansion there is very much related to the development of infrastructures, which are still very limited,” said Sallorenzo. “We decided to move swiftly, with the most knowledgeable partner, ahead of many of our competitors, to develop brand awareness there and because we believe in the potential of India, which will become a very important market, very much attentive to fashion. And the future is in our own branded stores.”

Covering 1,200 square feet, the first store is modeled after Replay’s signature stores around the world, with vintage furniture pieces juxtaposed with contemporary designs.

“Replay is a distinctive, contemporary brand for the denim enthusiast with passion for time-honored craftsmanship,” said Rakesh Biyani, director of Pantaloon Retail India, which is based in Mumbai and counts more than 1,000 stores across 53 cities in India, ranging from fashion outlets to supermarket chains.

Replay is also keeping an eye on more developed markets and will open a store in Miami in November, in a restructured Art Deco building. It is also considering a second store in New York.

“We are monitoring the U.S. market because the euro-dollar exchange rate is not helping us and the level of investment to open stores there is tremendous,” said Sallorenzo.

The company currently counts 200 stores around the world.

Sallorenzo, who joined Fashion Box Group, Replay’s parent company, in April, was previously president and ceo of ck Calvin Klein Sportswear and ck Jeans for Europe and Asia. The executive said he was drawn to Replay for its “valuable denim heritage” and the company’s continuous investments in research and development.

Sallorenzo said Replay “stands out at a time when everything is too standardized.

“Consumers are more attentive and they recognize the value behind the promise of a product,” he said.

Despite its recent product extensions, Sallorenzo said the company still has untapped potential in a number of categories, such as tops and shirts.

“After all, we have a tradition of shirts, which offers new opportunities,” said Sallorenzo, referring to Replay’s founder, the late Claudio Buziol, who was credited with creating innovative shirts in the Eighties.

The company is also launching its first fragrance in September under a licensing agreement with Procter & Gamble Prestige Products.

Sallorenzo said the Buziol family is consolidating its presence in the company and has no intention of either selling a stake or listing on the stock market, as has been recently speculated. Paola Buziol Dametto is Fashion Box’s majority shareholder and widow of Claudio Buziol.

Fashion Box, which produces Replay, the children’s Replay & Sons line and the experimental We Are Replay brand, has not released consolidated results for 2007. However, the company said in December sales were expected to be in line with 2006 figures of 350 million euros, or $437.5 million at average exchange for the period.

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