New Look is the latest retailer to examine overseas markets in a bid to escape slowing sales growth on the British high street. The privately owned fashion retailer is considering opening stores in the emerging markets of central Europe as it looks to expand its operations beyond its core UK chain.
It joins a growing band of British retailers venturing overseas in search of growth. This week Carphone Warehouse, the mobile phone retailer, is expected to unveil plans to open stores in America through a joint venture with Best Buy, the US chain. At the same time Sir Philip Green, the owner of the Arcadia and Bhs fashion groups, is looking for a flagship site for TopShop in New York , and Tesco, the supermarket, is plotting an assault on America ‘s west coast. New Look already has a presence overseas. Last week the retailer, which has shops in France and Belgium , opened an outlet in Dubai – the first of up to 40 in the Middle East – and has not ruled out a move to the US over the long term.
Phil Wrigley, New Look’s chief executive, said his team had spotted huge potential in central Europe. Although New Look will assess the performance of its French operations before committing to sites in central Europe, the economic argument is hard to resist. However, British retailers are notorious for getting things wrong overseas. Tesco, DSG, J Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer have all made ignoble exits from foreign ventures. One of the reasons is that retailers open concepts that have not been tailored to the markets.