* Sales up 8 pct in Jan-Aug 2010, sees trend continuing
* Plans new store openings in Italy, not abroad
By Antonella Ciancio
MILAN, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Italy’s upmarket department store chain La Rinascente expects sales in 2010 to rise by at least 5 percent as it concentrates on opening and renewing stores in its home market, a top executive said on Wednesday.
Unlisted Rinascente, owned by a group of investors including Pirelli Re PCRE.MI, Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Italy’s Borletti family, posted like-for-like sales up 8 percent in the first eight months of the year, the group’s general manager said.
“We expect this trend to continue. We expect sales to grow above 5 percent in 2010, probably in line with the first eight months of the year,” Alberto Baldan told Reuters at the opening of a new homewares floor at its flagship Milan store.
Founded in 1865, La Rinascente had like-for-like sales of 360 million euros ($457.1 million) in 2009, in line with 2008. The group did not disclose other financial details.
Rival chain Gruppo Coin GCN.MI, which has a smaller range of luxury brands, said on Tuesday sales were growing above expectations, as it carries on converting smaller Upim stores.
Italy’s oldest brand, La Rinascente is repositioning its central Milan store, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the group’s turnover. Sales at the store overlooking the Duomo cathedral were up 10 percent in the January-August period, Baldan said.
“We expect more shoppers during the Christmas season,” he said.
The chain has invested 3 million euros in a second floor for housewares at the Milan store.
Sales of homeware and kitchen goods account for up to 22 percent of the group’s turnover, Baldan said. Top-selling womenswear and accessories, which include brands such as Gucci PPR.PA and Louis Vuitton (LVMH.PA), are picking up again this year after falling in 2009, the executive said.
He said the group, which closed smaller loss-making stores last year, plans new openings in Italy in the coming years, but not abroad.
The group is evaluating an offer to buy a property from Italy’s Benetton retail family in Venice, he said.
Baldan said the opening of the Rome flagship would likely come in the first half of 2013. The group had previously set a deadline for 2012.
In April, Chief Executive Vittorio Radice said it was premature to talk about plans for a flotation of La Rinascente, which was previously on the bourse, before the opening of the Rome store. [ID:nMIE63D0A9]
Reporting by Antonella Ciancio, Editing by David Cowell