In downturn, luxury brand Bally eyes Asia and beyond

Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:45am EST
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Fresh from a makeover, luxury leather goods and clothing label Bally is out to woo fashionable Asians, but not at the expense of European and American customers who have been harder hit by the downturn.

Bally, founded as a family-owned business in Switzerland in 1851 and now part of the Labelux luxury brand group, is the latest in a long line of high-end retailers to boost their presence in Asia, a bright spot amid the gloom of the past year.

Luxury goods have largely fallen out of favor in Europe and the United States, but as many Asian economies were not as badly affected, the appetite here remains relatively healthy.

Newly appointed CEO Berndt Hauptkorn said Bally, like other retailers, would only increase their stake in Asian markets, but added that did not mean his company would neglect other so-called flagship destinations in its bid to build the brand.

"It's very important for us to position ourselves as a luxury company," Hauptkorn told Reuters in Singapore, where he was opening Bally's largest store in Asia.

"The Asian market is very important for us, but while other companies solely focusing on, say, China, we are also focusing on key markets in Europe and flagship locations worldwide, despite the economic situation. That's what long-term investors do."

Asia currently contributes 35 percent of Bally's business, and is home to 61 of its 180 self-branded stores.

Opening a store in Singapore, home to the worlds' highest density of millionaires and which is positioning itself as a center for luxury living, make sense for a brand raising its profile, but Bally has also recently opened shops in Rome, Milan and New York.   Continued...