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When Ralph Lauren hoisted his retail flag in the fast-growing Russian market in May, the iconic American was determined to make a statement. So instead of one store, he opened two — simultaneously — in what he said was a commitment to building a substantial business in the land of rabid new-wealth oligarchs and conspicuous consumption.
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"They have money to spend," said Lauren of Russian shoppers at the time.
"Their appetite is like when you sit down to a meal starved. I think that's why the market here is going to boom, because there's energy and a hunger for product, luxury and exclusivity."
To illustrate his point, before Lauren's flagships opened — one is in a town house near Red Square, while the other is a chalet-like boutique in a nearby affluent suburb — one impatient woman managed to buy five crocodile Ricky bags to the tune of $100,000.
As luxury spreads its wings even further beyond its traditional borders and zeroes in on fast-growing emerging markets from China to South Korea, making a very big splash has become de rigueur. In other words: the bigger the better.
Tokyo was the epicenter of the lion's share of the year's muscular openings. That it should be such seemed counterintuitive to some, since reports continue to pour in that the market for luxury is contracting there due to changing tastes and the weak yen. And even if LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Hermès both reported better sales in the island nation in the third quarter, sales were tough this year for most firms.
That didn't stop the market leaders from trying to outdo each other. In May, for example, Bottega Veneta opened its largest store in the world in Tokyo: a 9,700-square-foot complex spread over three levels.