The first eager shoppers will step over the threshold of Louis Vuitton’s new 10 000 square-foot Guam mega store on April 24.

"We are going to pre-open with a soft opening for Golden Week " Mark Browne general manager of Louis Vuitton Guam Inc. told the Journal.

The grand opening will be held about a month later. "We are going to have the formal opening around May 24. The formal opening will involve executives from Paris and from the regional headquarters in Hong Kong " he said.

Browne declined to confirm if Yves Carcelle chairman and chief executive of LVMH fashion group and Louis Vuitton would be attending the grand opening. Carcelle last visited the island in April 2004 when he announced the group’s plans for the super store in an exclusive Journal interview (See "Louis Vuitton’s superstore sends message to Micronesia " in the May 17 2004 issue of the Journal.).

The store built at what Carcelle said at the time is "significantly more" than $10 million is what Louis Vuitton classifies as a "global store."

The luxury goods retailer has about 60 global stores worldwide. "There are 344 stores worldwide of which only a small percentage are global store. Visitors to Guam that know our brand will understand the significance of having a global store on Guam " Browne said.

Browne said the Guam global store "will carry the full range of Louis Vuitton products. In addition to leather goods there will be men’s and women’s read-to-wear and shoes watches and jewelry. By definition a global store has the widest range and the full store selection. It will be a must-visit."

Carcelle told the Journal previously "We have a store concept which is consistent "" the same material the same wood the same principle "" but there is always a little bit different "" a personality to each one."

The store will also offer additional employment opportunities. "To staff a three-level store of this size we will be increasing total retail staff employed on Guam by 15 " Browne said taking the total on-island retail force to 75.

Regional media have been invited to the grand opening in May. These would come Browne said "From the main visitor markets "" Japan Korea Thailand Hong Kong and the Philippines. They will be leading media for fashion lifestyle travel and architecture " he said.

The opening of a global store sent a clear message concerning Guam’s tourist potential Browne said. "We’ve been doing business now in Guam for 26 years and the significance of this investment is really showing Louis Vuitton’s confidence in the future of Guam as a tourist destination for Asia. We were among the first to make that commitment."

Although the Saipan Louis Vuitton outlet is seeing upgrading future plans for that location were as yet uncertain Browne said. "We are doing an ongoing renovation "" minor work. We are waiting to see what comes of the recovery in the tourist industry and how it transforms."

The tourist profile of the Northern Mariana Islands might broaden he said. "I am not sure it will necessarily be a strong Japanese destination in the future. It’s too early to speculate. We are awaiting the development of trends."

The Asia-Pacific region including Japan contributes about 50% of Louis Vuitton revenues with Micronesia into double digits Carcelle said. MBJ