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Villeroy & Boch shift back into US growth mode


Villeroy & Boch, the 268-year-old German china and porcelain manufacturer, whose designs were favored by European royalty, picked The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack as the location for what it is calling its first flagship U.S. store.

The approximately 1,600-square-foot store is part of an effort by a venerable brand that made the plates used on the Orient Express and on the pope's table in the Vatican, as well as the tiles that line the Holland Tunnel, to connect with the changing lifestyles of today's consumers.

The store, one of only three Villeroy & Boch retail locations in this country, allows the company to show consumers a wider assortment of its products than typically found in the fine-china displays at department stores. The Riverside store prominently presents the company's modern designs and all-white basic lines, as well as creative options such as specially designed pasta platters and barbecue plates, with reservoirs for spoons and sauces. It also sells gift items such as candles, and a selection of dishes and accessories for toddlers.

Villeroy & Boch, which in the 1990s had dozens of U.S. stores, shrank its retail presence over the past decade, and now is reviving its retail efforts. It has a longstanding store in Princeton, as well as an outlet store in Maine. Villeroy & Boch also is sold in hundreds of department stores and specialty home and gift stores.

The store helps The Shops at Riverside's goal of adding more luxury brands not found in other malls. The Hackensack mall is undergoing a renovation that will add a movie theater, restaurants, and new retailers in the 100,000-square-foot space previously occupied by the Saks Fifth Avenue store.

The store also allows Villeroy & Boch employees to connect with customers directly and tell the story of the brand, for example, by banging a piece of premium bone porcelain on a table to show how sturdy it is. "When people hear that it is porcelain they say 'Oh, it must be fragile,' " said store manager Michelle Wudke. To be considered bone china or bone porcelain, a piece must have at least 30 percent bone ash, she explained. Villeroy & Boch premium bone porcelain has 49 percent bone ash, she said.

The store had its unpromoted opening on Saturday and plans a grand opening on a future date. Wudke said the store has already seen a good response to its gift items, and has also attracted customers who signed up for the Villeroy & Boch bridal registry at the store.

Wudke said engaged couples still are registering for china, just as they did in the past, but that favorite styles have changed. Many couples are leaning toward modern settings that can be used every day or for more formal occasions.

The company, she said, has also seen men become more involved in the choice of the china pattern, and Villeroy & Boch has begun pairing geometric patterns favored by men with dishes with floral and decorative designs in complementary colors in matched sets that keep both the bride and groom happy.

Nancy Lee, president of MyRegistry.com, a Fort Lee-based company that allows shoppers to select items from multiple registries, including Villeroy & Boch, agrees that china and other tableware still are sought-after wedding gifts. While bridal registries have expanded to include "absolutely anything" including electronics and even power tools, "that doesn't mean that china isn't a huge registry item, because it is," Lee said. "Villeroy & Boch also has a lot of casual china," she said. "People are choosing more casual china, and also china that I would say goes in both directions, that you can use for formal dinner and that you can use for more casual occasions. They happen to be very good at that," she said, "because they have some very chic and simple staples."

Source: north jersey.com

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