Benetton Grows Merchandise Mix With Sportsystem Tricaffe This December, Accessories of Benetton, Boca Raton, Fla., will unveil its new concept: Accessories of Benetton Sportsystem A Tricaffe. The first store, slated for NorthPoint Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will feature a marriage of three retail categories: accessories, sporting goods and a cafe.

According to Marco Revah, vice president of retail development for Boca Raton, Fla.-based Accessories of Benetton, the company is actively seeking regional centers as well as urban sites. "We'd like to be in major shopping centers, ranging from 1 million sq. ft. and above," he says. "At the same time, we're looking for high-traffic areas." Revah says the company is in discussions with Rockefeller Center in Manhattan for a 15,000 sq. ft. location across from the skating rink.

Revah notes that Benetton's established accessories line will give the store a much-needed "impulse purchase" component by adding handbags, luggage, wallets, sunglasses, perfume, cosmetics and umbrellas to the merchandise mix. Further, Benetton's diversified holdings -- including RollerBlade, Killer Loop, Nordica, Oslo, Formula 1 and Prince -- give the concept a strong sports brand affiliation.

"The Benetton Sportsystem already owns these labels, so we can create a great atmosphere with all these brands that already claim a certain part of the market," Revah says. "It's logical for us because it doesn't make us run with 55 [other vendors]."

The Benetton Cafe, called Tricaffe, was designed by Italian metal sculptor A. Pomodoro. Each is built with its own entrance, and Benetton will mark each cafe with signature porcelain flooring.

The menu will include cafe standards such as cakes, desserts and coffee, but the cafe also will sell gelatto, baguettes, chocolate and specialty olive oil. In future stores, says Revah, the Tricaffe could range anywhere from 500 sq. ft. to 3,000 sq. ft.

Following the rollout of Accessories of Benetton Sportsystem Tricaffe, the cafe could break out on its own. "We will certainly be able to do the cafes as a stand-alone, and we're looking at that option closely," Revah says. "We'd like to [put the cafe into] shopping center food courts, if possible."

Revah says the first few stores will provide valuable information for future decisions. "These first stores will take a lot of planning," he says. "Once we've opened them up, we will be able to test merchandise and [see] what works under a given market." Benetton will attempt to increase awareness of the new stores by touting the company's marketing catch-phrase, "Play Life."

In addition to the Fort Lauderdale site, Accessories of Benetton Sportsystem A Tricaffe is slated for Kaahumanu Center in Maui, Hawaii, and Pier 39 in San Francisco, both due in the early part of next year. Revah estimates 50 stores of its kind will open by 2005.

Contact: Marco Revah, vice president of retail development, Accessories of Benetton, 504 N.W. 77th St., Building #202, Boca Raton, Fla. 33487; (561) 241-8477.

Esprit Targets Mature Audience, Upscale Malls After repositioning its line to a slightly older customer, Esprit, San Francisco, began its new store rollout with the July opening of a store at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y. The company expects to continue its expansion with 10 more units, including a store at the Somerset Collection in Troy, Mich., by the end of the year.

The company was purchased last year by Jay Margolis, Esprit's chairman and chief executive officer, who decided to dissolve some 70 existing Esprit franchise agreements in favor of a corporate-controlled store network. In addition to its two existing stores, the company currently owns and operates 23 discount outlet stores in the United States.

According to Ed Kelloff, real estate director for Esprit, the new stores are likely to give consumers a wide vision of Esprit's product line. "[Our store rollout] has really broadened our customer," he says. "In the past, you think of an Esprit store as catering to a much younger customer. With shoes and accessories, we've got everyone from a 12-year-old to her grandmother walking into the store and shopping it."

Kelloff notes that Esprit's plan, although in its early stages, allows more than one category to get the full retail treatment. In March, the company leased 1,200 sq. ft. at SouthCoast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., to test a shoe and accessories store.

At St. Louis Galleria, Esprit is opening two stores with differing concepts. This month, the company will open a 3,200 sq. ft. women's shop, and, by Thanksgiving, it will christen a 1,130 sq. ft. children's store on a different Galleria level.

"They're such strong individual businesses," Kelloff says. "If you try to sell the kids' merchandise along with the women's store, you never really maximize the kids' business as you would if it were freestanding. With separate stores, you can make a much stronger statement."

Kelloff maintains that, despite the opportunity posed by the different store concepts, Esprit will for now remain focused on its women's stores. "Our primary focus is to open women's apparel stores that also will have shoes and accessories," he says. "That's really our growth vehicle. We think there's a chance to roll those out individually, but we're going into that on a much more limited basis.

"We're always going to be in the wholesale business," he says. "And opening up retail stores, as it's been proven time and again, does not take away from existing wholesale business. It just gives further exposure to the brand and the marketplace."

Contact: Ed Kelloff, real estate director, Esprit, 900 Minnesota St., San Francisco, Calif. 94107; (415) 550-3888.

Field Of Dreams Covers Bases Following an important alteration in the company's initial merchandise plan, Palm Desert, Calif.-based Field of Dreams is ready to hit retail home runs. The retailer is well on its way in its five-year drive toward 200 stores nationwide.

Founded in 1990 by former Utah Jazz owner and former Sambos president Sam Battistone, the company's original intent, according to president Joie Casey, was to sell many types of baseball cards. The retailer, he says, called only for a smattering of gifts and accessories.

"The concept evolved very quickly from card shop to upscale gift store," says Casey. "We had a plan on the front end that was very specific. Within 72 hours of opening our first store and getting sales figures, we found out that we had misfired." He notes that the company had anticipated that 80 percent of revenues would be garnered from baseball card sales and that the rest would be comprised of gift items.

"It ended up being the exact reverse of that," he continues. "Our customers were voting with their dollars differently than we anticipated, so we had to make a quick turn. The store logo first read 'Baseball Cards and Sports Memorabilia,' but then it just became 'Field of Dreams: Sports Memorabilia.'"

Field of Dreams displays cards, autographed memorabilia and other items in a museum-like setting, and, according to Casey, the stores' product lines focus on individuals rather than on teams. "We're primarily celebrity- and sports personality-oriented," he says. "We do have some [team-specific] items, but we're primarily geared toward the individual athlete."With 24 locat ions -- including The Forum Shops in Las Vegas, Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., and Water Tower Place in Chicago -- the company has scheduled 12 to 15 additional units by the end of this year. Approximately 25 new stores are "on deck" for 1998.

Contact: Jim Bieri, president, Bieri & Associates, 1500 First National Building, 660 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Mich. 48226; (313) 962-2800.

'It's About Games' Likely To Play Well In Shopping Centers Minneapolis-based Grow Biz International, owner of Play It Again Sports(R), Computer Renaissance(R) and Disc Go Round(R), has added another installment to its holdings with It's About Games(R). The retailer will buy, sell and trade new and used video and computer games, comics, trading cards, strategy books and accessories at approximately half the retail price.

In July, Grow Biz signed a letter of intent to purchase Video Game Exchange, a Minneapolis-based, used video game retailer. Once consummated, the deal will form a nucleus of stores for It's About Games.

"We've actually been interested in the new and used video games business for some time now," says Ron Olson, president and chief executive officer of Grow Biz. "We watched the business grow over the last five years, and it came on very strong in 1996 and in 1997. We really felt that is was the right timing for us to get involved."

It's About Games opened a 1,400 sq. ft. prototype last month at a strip center in Apple Valley, Minn. According to Brad Tait, president of It's About Games, the company will be looking for a number of different store venues, including other strip centers and enclosed malls.

"We're looking at several types of shopping centers," he says. "[The average game consumer] is on average 17 years old, and probably a 9-to-1 male to female ratio. So, we're looking at centers where the tenant adjacencies fit that demographic."

Value-conscious consumers give It's About Games strong market positioning, says Olson. "Because we represent such a good value with our starting price point -- approximately half of standard retail -- we have a great appeal to consumers," he says.

By the end of 1997, It's About Games expects to open three additional corporate-owned stores in the Minneapolis area. Next year, says Olson, the retailer will open 40 to 50 new stores, on its way to an eventual total of 1,000 units.

Contact: Steve Mosborg, real estate manager, It's About Games, 4200 Dahlberg Drive, Minneapolis, Minn. 55422; (612) 520-8627.