Italian designer clothing giant Versace announced yesterday plans to make China the focus of its development with an investment of 10 million euros (US$12.5 million) next year.
"It is a huge sum which represents about 40 percent of our total investment," Giancarlo Di Risio, group chief executive, told journalists.
Versace has been present in Asia for some 12 years and currently has one store in Beijing, one in Shanghai and three in Hong Kong.
The company is planning to open nine more shops next year -- seven in China, one in Hong Kong and another in Macau -- Di Risio announced.
"We have been encouraged by the achievement of our current stores to further our development," Di Risio said.
Di Risio gave no China sales figures, noting that the firm's Chinese stores were only five out of its total 80 flagship stores in the world.
"But by the end of [next year], [China sales] will be significantly more," he said.
Creative Director Donatella Versace said she was confident the company's "more contemporary, modern" trend would succeed in attracting Chinese customers.
She noted that the group, founded in 1978 by her brother, targets young clients through the Versace Jeans Couture line, which has 20 franchises in China out of a total of 30 stores in the world.
The number of franchises should grow to more than 30 in China by next year, according to the company's plan.
According to global market research firm Ipsos, China is the third largest market for luxury goods in the world, accounting for 12 percent of the global sales of luxury products, behind Japan's 41 percent and the US' 17 percent.
By 2010, 250 million Chinese -- 17 times more than today -- will be potentially able to afford luxury products, according to French officials.
The Versace group, which employs 1,500 people, recorded turnover of 310 million euros in 2005.