Published June 23, 2007

[SIZE="5"][B]Luxury brand Zegna bets on CBD as it seeks to expand[/B][/SIZE]

By CHRISTOPHER LIM


ERMENEGILDO Zegna will be opening its first store at Capital Tower in the central business district during the second half of this year. This brings to mind two obvious questions - why such an aggressive rate of expansion, since Zegna's men's accessories store in Takashimaya opened just last month, and why the CBD when its competitors are still focusing on the Orchard area.

Alessandro Raniolo, Zegna's managing director, explains the thinking behind the company's rate of expansion. 'This is in line with our global direction to increase brand presence and market share,' Mr Raniolo says.

'We are an emporium for menswear and our store locations in Singapore reflect this; the leather and accessories store at Takashimaya will grow our accessories business while the Capital Tower store will cater to the formal/business attire market. It will be more exclusive and personal in its approach,' he explains.

This is straightforward enough, but the luxury company's move into the CBD is harder to account for since other luxury retailers have no stores in the area at the moment, and have no current plans to open any. Louis Vuitton public relations manager Aileen Png says that the closest store LV has to the CBD is its branch at Raffles Hotel. Shanghai Tang executive chairman Raphael le Masne de Chermont says that the fashion brand has no stores in the CBD either. 'This is an area worth researching, and we may consider opening a store in the CBD if new opportunities arise, but we have no plans to right now,' he says.

Does Zegna know something no one else does? 'Within the Singapore context, the central business district will become the playground for the rich in the next few years. With the Integrated Resorts, Formula One races, and premium residential developments, the whole district will be transformed into a place for both work and play,' Mr Raniolo says. These are general economic factors applicable to the fashion industry at large, but are there any that apply specifically to Zegna?

''A significant number of our core customers are from the finance sector or they work in the central business district, so the Capital Tower store location is a strategic move to bring the brand closer to them,' Mr Raniolo says, pinpointing Zegna's target demographic - the male executive.

'Globally, luxury menswear is a growth sector within luxury retailing; this is already evident in developed markets like USA, Europe and Japan and is gaining momentum in urbanised Asian economies like Hong Kong and Shanghai. We expect this trend to emerge in Singapore and the SEA region,' he elaborates.

Mr Raniolo also details how the new store will differ from the Takashimaya and Paragon branches.

'Being a mens-only international luxury brand, we understand our customers' needs and the environment they feel most comfortable in; Capital Tower is designed with that customer in mind. He is someone who not only demands quality, but wants convenience. Personal attention and details are paramount so we are offering a personal styling service, including individual tailoring appointments offered in the privacy of their offices. The mantra for Capital Tower is really about luxury and exclusive personalised service.'

The Capital Tower store will be located on the ground floor of the building. It will be a standalone boutique directly operated by Zegna, and will be the company's third store in Singapore. As at the end of 2006, the Ermenegildo Zegna Group had 501 single-brand outlets in the world, of which 198 were fully owned.