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Teen Accessory Store Continues Growth Spurt

With three concepts under way in the United States, Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based Claire's Stores Inc. recently surpassed the 2,000 mark in its number of stores.

Included in Claire's Stores are: the accessory division, made up of Claire's Accessories and The Icing, which operate 1,642 stores in North America, 64 stores in Japan and 183 stores in the United Kingdom; Mr. Rags, operating 86 stores in the U.S.; and Bijoux One, a recent acquisition with 53 stores in Europe.

Yet, with 2,028 stores total throughout North America, Europe and Japan, the company still plans to open between 240 and 265 stores this year, according to Bonnie Schaefer, vice president of real estate. Among the new locations will be 100 Claire's Accessories and The Icing stores in the U.S.; between 50 and 75 Mr. Rags stores; 80 Claire's Accessories stores opening in the United Kingdom, with another 10 in Japan.

"We are in every major mall in the U.S. We're exploring all kinds of other opportunities including entertainment centers," Schaefer says. "Every time you look around, there are more malls going up. As long malls are continuing to be built we obviously have a vehicle for growth. The other vehicle for growth is acquisitions."

Claire's acquired Mr. Rags last April. Mr. Rags is an apparel store for the male teen-ager specializing in skatewear, surfwear and streetwear. The Icing, an accessory store geared to an older teen, was acquired about three years ago. The two concepts, along with Claire's Accessories, the company's original concept for teen-agers, continue to do well in regional malls across the country, according to sales results.

Claire's Accessories not only provides fashion accessories, but also room accessories, by featuring trends such as blow-up furniture, candles, door curtains and picture frames.

In July 1998, Claire's Accessories rolled out a prototype design. The new design, Schaefer says, is a complete departure from that of the past, with clean lines and a different color scheme. The stores, at approximately 1,000 sq. ft., will all eventually be remodeled as their leases come up for renewal.

The company's niche, and perhaps the reason the stores have had such success, is that the stores are geared toward teen-agers. For example, the company bought The Icing when it was going out of business and had filed for bankruptcy. At that time, The Icing was targeting an older woman. Claire's turned it into a concept for teen-agers.

"We focus on the teen market, and that's who hangs out in the malls," Schaefer says. "We are very on top of the trends. We give the customer exactly what they want at the right price."

Contact: Bonnie Schaefer, vice president of real estate, Claire's Stores Inc., 3 S.W. 129th Avenue, Pembroke Pines, Fla. 33027; (954) 433-3900.

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