NEW YORK — Esprit is prowling metropolitan New York for sites to relaunch a retail chain in the U.S. beginning next year.

This story first appeared in the November 6, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to Heinz Krogner, Esprit Holdings’ chief executive officer and chairman for Europe and ceo of Esprit International in New York, the first store should open in spring or summer, six or seven locations are in discussion and one lease is ready to be signed soon.

“The availability of the right locations is the bottleneck,” Krogner said. “I can open 50 stores tomorrow. We have enough money, but we won’t find the right locations so fast.” Asked where he wants to open stores, he replied, “Why not Fifth Avenue, SoHo and some of the best malls in the area?”

He said the company could open stores selling all three Esprit collections under one roof, or stores specializing in either the Esprit Women’s Collection, the Esprit Women’s Casual collection or the edc by esprit junior collection.

Krogner said he couldn’t quantify how many stores could open in the U.S. “It depends on our overall distribution strategy,” which is leaning to fewer and better department stores.

Esprit, under its previous owner, used to operate stores in the U.S. but closed the last seven or eight units about a year ago. Esprit currently has about $1.6 billion in revenues, with 40 percent from retail and 60 percent generated at wholesale. Esprit was launched in San Francisco 35 years ago, sold its trademark rights in the U.S. and the Caribbean in early 2002 to Esprit Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-based, publicly traded firm. Much work has been done in the past year to boost marketing, licensing and now retailing. The company recently relocated its headquarters to New York and launched a global ad campaign: “Real People, Real Design, Real Style.”

According to Richard Hodos, president of Madison HGCD, the retail brokerage firm working for Esprit on the rollout, the initial plan calls for four or five mall stores between 4,500 and 5,000 square feet; one outlet, and possibly a street location in Manhattan. Madison HGCD is a partner of Madison Marquette and performs national and regional site selection and lease negotiations for Coach, Façonnable, Tiffany, J. Crew, The Body Shop, Eileen Fisher and J. Jill, among other retailers.

In Europe, there are just under 2,000 shop-in-shops, 3,300 smaller corners in stores, 400 stand-alone franchised stores and 150 owned stores. In China, there are 600 points of sale, including directly owned stores, in-store shops and multibrand stores. The China business is a partnership with China Resources, a state-owned public company that owns 51 percent of the Esprit China business, whereas Esprit Holdings has 49 percent. Elsewhere in Asia, there are 133 freestanding owned retail locations.

In Australia, there are 116 Esprit stores and in Canada, 40 — all owned by Esprit.

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