In June, Swatch Group inaugurated a 14-floor building that includes separate boutiques for its seven main brands — Swatch, Omega, Blancpain, Glashutte, Breguet, Jaquet Droz and Leon Hatot. The complex was reported to cost $140 million, which would make it Swatch's single largest investment outside of Switzerland.
In November, Giorgio Armani made his own superlative statement: a 65,000-square-foot, 12-story building in Ginza that cost $20 million to build. Ever the showman, Armani flew actress Cate Blanchett in to fete the store, which includes the first Armani Spa, an Italian restaurant and a bar.
"There is much more emphasis today on the space and the decor [in Japan]," said Armani in Tokyo. "Everything here is big and important — the dimensions, the banners, the modernity — and everything is very sophisticated."
Rounding out a wild year of mega openings in Tokyo, Roman jewelry firm Bulgari opened a 10-story tower of its own in Ginza last month, opposite the already sprawling Chanel and Cartier flagships.
"Japan remains an enormous market, the biggest in the world," said Bulgari chief executive officer Francesco Trapani. "It's important to be a leader here."
Trying to live up to that desire, Bulgari's tower — apart from 10,000 square feet of selling space — features a rooftop lounge and a panoramic restaurant designed to sex up the shopping experience. A few weeks earlier, the Roman jeweler also inaugurated a 6,500-square-foot boutique in Omotesando that operates its own cafe and gourmet chocolate shop.
Meanwhile, Saks Fifth Avenue, which has been tiptoeing onto the international stage, took a big step by opening its first store in Mexico last month. The three-level, 150,000-square-foot unit in the upscale Santa Fe Shopping Center in Mexico City is a test to determine the potential for more stores in the country. Saks has been eyeing Japan, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Macau and India, among other locations.
Big didn't always correlate with a store opening. In October, Fendi staged an extravagant fashion show on the Great Wall of China that underscored that nation's growing importance for European luxury brands.