MILAN — The financial bubble may have burst, but for Piazza Sempione, the U.S. is still a ballooning market.
This story first appeared in the November 20, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The fashion firm is pushing ahead with a bullish retail program with the opening of three freestanding stores in The Shop at the Bravern mall in Bellevue, Wash.; in Chevy Chase, Md., outside Washington, and in The Plaza at King of Prussia, Pa.
Between 1,200 and 2,300 square feet in size, each unit is expected to generate annual sales of $2.8 million.
Earlier this year, Piazza Sempione spent $1.5 million to open a store in Chicago and is seeking the right location in New York. Piazza Sempione has 13 stand-alone stores and 600 doors worldwide.
“The opening of four stores in the U.S. demonstrates our unwavering commitment to an historically key market, as well as our resolve to strengthen brand awareness there,” said Enrico Morra, chief executive officer of Piazza Sempione, adding that Seattle and the Chevy Chase stores are already performing “well over expectations.”
Next year, the company plans to open in Taiwan and South Korea, where five stores will open in three years, plus boost the number of Lane Crawford doors the brand is in from one to three.
Bergdorf Goodman’s recent remodeling of its sixth floor extended to the 7,560-square-foot Piazza Sempione shop, which now has Serena stone floors, ivory Venetian plastered walls, blue leather armchairs and an antique quilted rug.
It’s now more in symbiosis with Piazza Sempione’s general blueprint of light-filled ambiences obtained via sanded and smoked blonde oak floors; textured wallpaper; white porcelain chandelier, and sandblasted glass niches.
Three years ago, L Capital, the private equity arm of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, acquired a majority stake in the Italian fashion house, founded in 1991 by Roberto Monti and Marisa Guerrizio. The founders have since left.
The spring collection was designed by Paola Toscano, who replaced Nathalie Gervais, the French designer who left after five seasons to move back to Paris. Toscano is no stranger to the brand, as she was Gervais’ assistant.
Spring orders rose 24 percent compared with the fall season, while overall 2009 sales grew 10 percent. Due to company policy, Morra declined to disclose sales, but said Piazza Sempione annually produces 450,000 pieces of clothing.
Wholesale prices range from $150 to $230 for pants; dresses sell from $200 to $350, and coats go from $450 to $700.
About 95 percent of the fabrics employed are exclusive to Piazza Sempione, which built its reputation on bi-stretch materials and tailoring. The latter continues to be the brand’s bread and butter because, as Morra puts it, “we’re not looking to be Balenciaga.”
Convinced product is king, Morra benefited from the recession by striking deals with small manufacturers crippled by the downturn.
“It’s sad, but many manufacturers are willing to negotiate on the price to secure orders, which works for us since we would never think of outsourcing production,” said Morra.
Elsewhere, Piazza Sempione signed up with the charity program “Progetto Sorriso nel Mondo,” which treats children affected by facial malformations or suffering from bad burns.