Fri, Dec 12, 2008 - Page 12 News List

Dean & DeLuca’s future in doubt

By Jerry Lin and Vanessa Cho  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The US gourmet food store Dean & DeLuca has been hard hit by the deteriorating macroeconomic environment, a Breeze Center (微風廣場) official said yesterday, amid speculation that the store may pull out of local market next month.

The Taipei department store, which introduced Dean & DeLuca to Taiwan — and East Asia — in January last year, is considering remodeling the store’s business to better meet demand, the official said.

“If Dean & DeLuca decides to stay, we will put more effort into matching its products with local culture and flavor,” Wang Yu-wen (王玉文), an official in the mall’s sales & promotion department, told local cable channel USTV.

Wang dismissed speculation that Dean & DeLuca was going to pull out of the market, saying a decision had not been made. But he said the outlet has fallen short of its annual sales target, without providing any figures.

At the stores grand opening last year, Breeze Center executive director Henry Liao (廖鎮漢) said that the Taipei outlet had an annual sales target of NT$250 million (US$7.5 million). The company planned to launch a second outlet six months later and open up to five stores in the future, he said.

Liao said he saw Dean & DeLuca as a successful “lifestyle” brand, rather than a retail brand for gourmet food. He said the nation’s luxury products market was nearly saturated, but its fine dining market had plenty of room for growth.

During its grand opening, many customers were stunned to find a 68g bottle of 100-year-old red vinegar priced at NT$10,800 (US$324.32), while French traditional country-style bread would cost nearly NT$2,500.

Dean & DeLuca sales have declined in recent months and industry sources said the company was considering leaving Taiwan.

Sources said Breeze Center may renovate the Dean & DeLuca space into a cafeteria.

Jason Tsai (蔡明澤), the center’s spokesman, declined to comment during an earlier phone call.

Dean & DeLuca was founded in New York City’s SoHo district in 1977. It started as an Italian food specialty store and later began serving Mediterranean-style food. It has been dubbed the “Louis Vuitton” of gourmet specialty stores.

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