NEW YORK — Tommy Hilfiger has focused on opening small- and medium-sized stores in recent years. Now the company is thinking big — really big.

In November, Hilfiger will open a four-level, 22,000-square-foot flagship at 681 Fifth Avenue, near 54th Street. Fred Gehring, chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger Group, expects the store to initially ring up sales of more than $1,000 a square foot.

“It could evolve to a volume in the high $20 millions to $30 million,” he said. “The international crowd that shops on Fifth Avenue will take us to [sales] levels we never dreamed of.”

The company hopes to replicate the New York flagship in key cities. “We’re actively looking in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago,” Gehring said. “We’re looking to do something in Japan. We acquired our Japanese license. We are also trying to develop some mall units. We’ll be signing leases for three or four mall stores.”

Fifth Avenue is not Hilfiger’s first flagship foray. A 20,000-square-foot Rodeo Drive unit closed in 2001. “I have been of the opinion for many years that Tommy Hilfiger needed to be on Fifth Avenue,” Gehring said. “Many years ago, there was an attempt to develop flagship retail. They did the Beverly Hills store. I thought that was wrong.”

Gehring said that a Manhattan flagship was a priority of Hilfiger’s new owner, Apax Partners, the private equity group that bought the company in 2006.

“When we did the privatization two years ago [a New York flagship] was high on the list of things we wanted to accomplish,” he said. “But as strong as our [international] business was, the business in the U.S. was a little shaky. I was a little bit nervous to commit to a location this size a year and a half ago.”

Improvement in Hilfiger’s domestic business gave Gehring the confidence to act on “the Fifth Avenue opportunity that came to my desk,” he said.

The flagship will be more than twice as large as the next biggest store in the chain, a 9,500-square-foot unit opening in Cologne, Germany, in October that will be the largest location in Europe. Most Hilfiger stores average 2,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet.

This story first appeared in the March 12, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The flagship will be the first Tommy Hilfiger store worldwide to carry every product category, including the runway collection, men’s wear, women’s wear, children’s wear, tailored, footwear, accessories and the complete Hilfiger Denim collection. Gehring said it hasn’t been decided whether the store will sell the home category.

The lower level will be devoted to denim in a setting that will replicate the Denim Concept store on Broadway in SoHo. Men’s wear will be on the ground floor, and will include everything from casual to tailored. Gehring said a bespoke service is under consideration. A 2,500-square-foot mezzanine will be devoted to accessories, including belts, handbags and shoes. Women’s wear will occupy the third floor and children’s and sport will be on the fourth level.

Hilfiger operates only six full-price freestanding stores worldwide, but Gehring won’t grow the chain or overbuild. “Ultimately, the retail development is meant to be seen in combination with our national alliance with Macy’s,” he said, referring to an exclusive pact the designer signed with the retailer in November. The Hilfiger chain “is not going to be 500 stores. It could be 50, maybe.”