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New Look to ramp up China expansion amid ‘appetite for British fashion’

New Look is to step up the pace of store openings in China under its new owner Brait, the investment company controlled by South African tycoon Christo Wiese.

The fashion chain intends to open 80 stores this year, compared with the 60 previously planned, and the vast majority of those will be in China.

New Look has 30 stores in China, up from 19 at the end of March, and has signed up 40 of a planned 70 new outlets this year. A further 10 will open in Poland and France over the financial year, while only replacement stores are planned in the UK.

“This is a great story of a British brand which has been successful in China. There is an appetite for British fashion there,” Anders Kristiansen, the chief executive, said.

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He said Brait, which will complete its buyout of a 90% stake in New Look on 25 June, would help the business “go faster”. “There are lots of mid-market brands charging high prices in China. We came in with strong, good fashion at affordable prices and Chinese consumers love it,” he said.

Revealing a 3.4% rise in group sales to £1.4bn and an 8.7% rise in underlying profit to £153.2m for the year to 28 March, Kristiansen said the retailer had seen a strong bounceback from a difficult autumn season. “I think the outlook is very positive. We are taking market share but also the economy is better and customers are spending more generally.”

Sales at established New Look outlets, including its website, rose by 5.4% in the three months to 28 March compared with a 1% fall in the previous three months, which were affected by unseasonably warm autumn weather.

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Kristiansen said the autumn quarter had been an exception and a 34% rise in online sales had been backed up by a positive performance in stores during the spring. “Momentum returned,” he said. “We are particularly proud of our performance in the UK business.”

Sales at established UK stores rose 5% in the year as Kristiansen said improvements in design, the introduction of more menswear and new product areas such as cosmetics as well as items at the cheaper and more expensive ends of the spectrum had helped lift sales. For example, two years ago New Look only sold jeans priced between £12.99 and £22.99; now prices range from £7.99 to nearly £40, helping to broaden the brand’s appeal.

Investment in linking stores and online services also paid off. “It is about making it as convenient and easy as possible for customers to shop,” Kristiansen said. “Whether it’s mobile, being easy to check out on your desktop, next-day delivery or click and collect or pick up goods at a local station, it’s all part of making it easier for customers and that’s well ahead of our competitors.”

(Source: The Guardian)

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