Byline: Luisa Zargani

MILAN — The accelerated rollout of Benetton megastores helped drive up the company’s sales in 2001, but couldn’t bring its bottom line up to its 2000 levels.
Net profits declined 6.5 percent to $142.1 million in 2001 as sales increased 3.9 percent to $1.82 billion. Benetton said in a statement that its apparel division grew 9.5 percent in sales and 8 percent in units. Benetton reported operating profits of $249.3 million, down 7.6 percent from 2000.
The Veneto, Italy-based group’s debt for 2001 rose to $559.5 million against $467.8 million the previous year, generated by investments of $271.4 million in retailing and production. Dollar figures were converted from the euro at current exchange rate.
Despite the events of Sept. 11 and a slowing of the world economy, Western Europe’s sales were up 10 percent and the apparel division’s sales in those markets were up 13 percent. Double-digit sales gains were registered in the U.S., Korea and Eastern Europe.
In 2001, Benetton’s network of megastores, which offer a complete range of products under the Benetton brand, grew “above expectations,” the firm said. At the end of the year, the group counted more than 100 units in the world, a target originally set for 2002. Last year, Benetton opened megastores in cities including Paris, Rome, Kobe, Osaka, New York, London, Moscow and Lisbon.
As a complement to the UCB and Sisley brands, Benetton last year introduced The Hip Site, aimed at a younger customer than the Benetton label.

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