WARNER BROS. STORES SETS GLOBAL PUSH

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — Dennis Adomaitis has been promoted to executive vice president of international operations at Warner Bros. Studio Stores, signaling the 175-unit chain’s plan to produce half its volume abroad by 2002.
Adomaitis was senior vice president of international operations. In his new post, he reports to Peter Starrett, president of Warner Bros. Studio Stores, which expects to reap 20 percent of its sales offshore this year. The chain’s annual volume was not disclosed.
Adomaitis was not available for comment on the specialty retailer’s growth plans. However, Starrett said, “We’ll step up international expansion going forward, so we wanted an executive of Dennis Adomaitis’s caliber in place.”
Adomaitis will oversee the company-owned and operated Warner Bros. units in Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as the Warner Bros. stores run through joint ventures in nine other countries. Joint-venture partners include Dickson Concepts and DFS Group.
“We’ll have 41 stores opened offshore by yearend, nearly doubling the 23 units we had at the beginning of 1997,” Starrett noted. “Thereafter, we’ll typically launch 25 to 30 stores annually.”
Next year, Warner Bros. Studio Stores will enter several new markets, including the United Arab Emirates, The Philippines and Saipan. “We expect we’ll be in 15 to 17 international markets by the end of 1998, up from 11 this year,” Starrett said.
Warner prefers to expand abroad via joint ventures because they allow the chain “to move a lot faster,” he added.
By 2002, Warner Bros. plans to operate as many stores abroad as it does in the U.S., where it expects to have 145 stores by Dec. 31. “Longer-term, we’re looking at a scenario in which the international stores would produce half of the chain’s volume, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in five years, more of our sales were generated offshore,” Starrett projected.
One reason for the accelerated growth abroad is that those stores are more productive than their U.S. counterparts, said the chain’s president, declining to specify. The Warner Bros. division is aiming to take its concept to 25 offshore markets in five years.
The launches this year of Warner Bros. Studio Stores in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Taipei, Taiwan, rank in the chain’s top five and 10 opening weekends, respectively, according to Starrett. “Sales there are way above where we thought they’d be,” he said.
The location of many Warner Bros. stores abroad in concentrated retail districts has helped raise their productivity, Starrett explained. “We see that pattern in England,” he said. Warner Bros. Studio Stores opened its first international location in the fall of 1993 in Manchester, England.
“Business in the U.S. stores is nostalgia-driven, in large part,” Starrett observed. “In many cases, the international shoppers are buying Americana in our stores, and that may broaden our customer base abroad.”
Warner Bros. has begun micromerchandising the apparel in its Asian stores, which draw far more teenagers than the U.S. units, Starrett said. “In Asia, teens see us as hip and fun, so we tend to offer more fashion-driven apparel,” he said. “Women in their teens to early 20s are our primary apparel customers in Asia.
“In the U.S., we have more of a misses’ customer,” Starrett added. “We tend to do very well with kids up to ages 10 or 11, we lose them as teens and they come back to us in their early 20s through 40s.”
Warner Bros. Studio Stores, based in Burbank, Calif., is a division of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, which is an arm of Time Warner Entertainment Co. Adomaitis joined Warner Bros. Studio Stores in October 1990 as vice president of domestic operations, and was promoted to senior vice president of domestic operations in 1992.

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