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by Sharon Edelson

New York — Sandwich, the latest retailer you’ve never heard of to land on these shores, arrived by way of the Netherlands last month when it unveiled its first U.S. store at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas.

Sandwich is part of a larger trend of small- to medium-size foreign specialty retailers opening stores Stateside. While these chains may be popular in their home countries, they have little or no name recognition here. Nonetheless, mall operators have embraced the newcomers at a time when many American retailers are closing stores or scaling back expansion plans.

Bart Terhorst, managing director of Veldhoven Retail USA LLC, parent of Sandwich, said the 3,600-square-foot Las Vegas unit has been in the works for some time. “Two years ago [the idea] looked good,” he said. “Of course, the economy looked much better then than it does now. But you can’t abandon such a project. The economy will pick up.”

Terhorst said the store, which had a soft opening last month and will celebrate a grand opening on Sept. 7, has been trending well. “We are pretty much on track for what we were expecting for next year,” he said. “This should be a $3 million store for us. We are going in the right direction. The good reaction we’re getting from customers is what keeps us very optimistic.”

Sandwich is priced “in the Zara range,” Terhorst said, noting pants range in price from $65 to $85, and tops, $25 to $65. Veldhoven, which owns factories in China, manufactures two other brands, No-No apparel for babies and girls, and Still, a higher-priced women’s collection. Sandwich, which was primarily a wholesale brand, began opening stores six years ago and now operates units in 24 countries.

“I have experience in the European market,” Terhorst said. “The U.S. is different. Customers are a bit more demanding. Nevertheless, that’s good for us because we want to be a service company. We want to do it right. It’s good that shoppers are demanding. There are [so many] choices here — you can shop anywhere. It keeps us focused.”

Underestimating American consumers has been the downfall of some foreign retailers that retreated. After acquiring the Dutch brand Mexx in 2001, Liz Claiborne opened 11 stores in the U.S. The brand never resonated with consumers and all 11 Mexx units closed between early 2006 and July 2007. Sold in 66 countries, Mexx failed to replicate in America its success in Europe, particularly in France. “Mexx does not have the brand recognition here,” said Jill Granoff, group president for direct-to-consumer, last July.

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