Spanish fashion retailer Cortefiel is on track to open 440 franchised stores around the world by 2013, many of them in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, franchise director Alex Cara told just-style on Friday (27 February).

The retailer hopes to enter China, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Tunisia, Indonesia and Slovakia respectively within the next 12 months in efforts to open 100 franchises this year, Cara revealed.

It will also muscle into Ecuador, Venezuela Mexico, Russia and the Middle East.

"We are moving full throttle with our expansion," Cara said from Madrid, adding that Cortefiel will run 800 franchised outlets - from roughly 360 now - by the end of 2012.

"We are still negotiating with potential partners but hope to be in these markets by the end of our fiscal year" of February 2010.

Cortefiel's Springfield and Women's Secret labels will continue to drive the expansion. Stores will be rolled out in the five continents but with a special focus on Asia-Pacific, South America and the Middle East.

In Asia-Pacific, the focus will be China, Vietnam and Thailand, Cara said, adding that Cortefiel hopes to open 200 Chinese stores in five years.

Next will be South America where Cara said Spain-Latam cultural/language links provide an ideal backdrop for expansion. Apart from Ecuador and Venezuela, Cortefiel group hopes to enter Brazil and Argentina in three years.

"South America is very interesting for us," Cara noted. "We have been operating there very successfully, particularly in Mexico, and there is a lot of leverage to be had from being a Spanish company."

Regarding the Middle East, Cortefiel will grow heavily in Qatar and Saudi Arabia while in Europe, the onus will be on Russia where "there's still huge room for growth beyond our 50 franchised stores" when the recession abates, Cara said.

Cortefiel has a much more cautious strategy for its self-owned outlets. Cara said non-franchised business will be stepped up post recession, particularly in Europe where the firm owns most stores including 800 in Spain and some 200 in large Western European markets.

"We will move to secure continued growth [post recession] where we lead but for now franchising will be the driving force. It's a good business with limited risk and investment from our side."

Cortefiel Group operates 1,570 stores of mostly the Springfield, Women's Secret and Cortefiel eponymous banners, of which 460 are franchised.

By Ivan Castano-Freeman.