Yves Saint Laurent Couture, a division of Gucci Group NV (NYSE: GUC; Amsterdam) announced today that it has reached an agreement with its Japanese franchisee to take over all the rights to the Japanese market, effective December 1, including five Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche stores.

This transaction will enable the company to capitalise on its brand management capabilities to enhance and develop the Yves Saint Laurent brand in the Japanese market.

In the future, Yves Saint Laurent plans to open additional directly operated stores, building on the existing presence in Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo and Fukuoka.

After this transaction, the number of Yves Saint Laurent directly operated stores worldwide will have increased from 15 at the end of 1999 to 30 in December 2000, following the acquisition of Mendes in February (nine stores in France, Germany and Italy), and the opening of a new store in Singapore in August.

In addition, the Milan store was recently expanded to include men's Rive Gauche products, and a new store will open in the Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, on December 15, the first Yves Saint Laurent boutique designed by creative director Tom Ford and architect William Sofield.

Other store openings already scheduled for 2001 include South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, which will open in March, the Landmark in Hong Kong, and four additional locations in Japan in Spring 2001.

In 2001, the Madison Avenue flagship store in New York will be expanded to double its current size (11,000 sq ft) and will offer the full range of Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche product categories, including lady's and men's ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories.

Yves Saint Laurent is also aggressively seeking additional locations in key markets throughout the United States, Europe, Japan and the rest of Asia.

Domenico De Sole, president and chief executive officer of Gucci Group N.V. said: "The developments we are announcing today underline the ability of this management team to successfully apply our proven business model to reposition Yves Saint Laurent in the luxury goods market.

"The enlarged store network will ensure increased direct contact with customers around the world, enabling the best presentation of the Yves Saint Laurent collections designed by Tom Ford, which have already met enthusiastic response from buyers after the first Paris fashion show in October."

About Yves Saint Laurent Couture
Founded in 1962, Yves Saint Laurent Couture is a world-renowned luxury goods company. It designs, produces and distributes women's and men's ready to wear clothing and fashion accessories both directly and under license. The company is a division of Gucci Group NV, quoted on the New York and Amsterdam stock exchanges.