Tuesday, September 20, 2011

First Versona Accessories store to open next week

Charlotte-based apparel retailer Cato is branching out into more upscale shopping, with the launch of its Versona Accessories store concept next week in south Charlotte's Arboretum shopping center.

The store is set to open next Thursday, Sept. 29. Cato, which operates some 1,285 stores mainly focused on value-priced apparel, said the Versona stores will sell "jewelry, handbags, shoes, belts, scarves, hair accessories, sunglasses, gift items and more" in an "upscale shopping environment comparable to better specialty and department stores."

The new store will employ about 25 people, Cato said.

"Versona Accessories promises to be a unique fashion destination where women can find the perfect accents to any outfit, no matter what the occasion. We are excited about our first Versona store opening in Charlotte," said Cato CEO John Cato.

The Arboretum store will be followed by openings in Columbia, SC, Baton Rouge, LA, and Louisville, KY in October. Cato plans to open 40 to 50 more Versona stores over the next 18 months. The retailer's real estate materials say Cato is searching for 7,000 to 9,000-square-foot stores in high traffic shopping centers and malls with upscale fashion tenants.

For the most recent quarter, Cato reported in August that its profits rose to $18.1 million, up from $17 million last year. Total revenue rose slightly for the quarter, to $237 million.

But sales at stores open for a year or more, considered a key measure of retail health, slumped about 1 percent for the quarter, Cato said. Executives blamed the bad economy, and said still-high fuel and raw materials costs could dampen its results for the rest of the year.