Specialty retail apparel chain Express is to open its first standalone stores in South Africa as early as next year, as part of a franchise agreement with Edcon Group.

The company, which operates 600 stores in the US, expects to launch store-in-stores at select Edgars department stores by the end of this year, with standalone Express stores to open in 2015.

Chairman and CEO Michael Weiss said this is "an exciting next step in our international expansion strategy," adding that the country has a customer base Express should resonate with.

Last month, Express outlined a cost-reduction plan that will see it save US$18m a year and close 50 stores, after reporting an 84.3% drop in first-quarter profit.

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EXPRESS TO ENTER SOUTH AFRICA
Franchisee Expected to Open Stores in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Express, Inc. (NYSE: EXPR), a men's and women's specialty retail apparel chain operating over 600 stores, today announced that one of its subsidiaries has entered into a franchise agreement with Edcon Group, a retail franchise operator in South Africa, to bring the Express brand to South Africa.

The Express brand is expected to launch as a store-in-store concept at select Edgars department stores by the end of 2014 with standalone Express store locations to open in 2015.

Michael Weiss, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Express stated that, "We are thrilled that the Express brand is going to be in South Africa, representing an exciting next step in our international expansion strategy. It's a terrific market in terms of having a customer base our brand should resonate with.  We are grateful to be working with Edcon to make it happen."

Edcon Chief Executive Officer, Jurgen Schreiber says: "We are excited to be able to introduce Express and its on-trend fashions to the South African customer. Having such a fashion forward, established brand will enhance our ever-growing international brand offering in South Africa."

International Strategy
Express has identified international expansion as one of the company's four pillars of growth and a significant long-term revenue opportunity for the company given the fashion content of the brand and the universal appeal to the 20-30 year old demographic. Express serves a diverse customer base in the company's U.S. stores in both tourist and border geographies. Currently there are 11 Express franchise stores in theMiddle East and 15 franchise stores in Latin America.

About Express, Inc.
Express is a specialty apparel and accessories retailer of women's and men's merchandise, targeting the 20 to 30 year old customer. The Company has over 30 years of experience offering a distinct combination of fashion and quality for multiple lifestyle occasions at an attractive value addressing fashion needs across work, casual, jeanswear, and going-out occasions. The Company currently operates more than 600 retail and factory outlet stores, located primarily in high-traffic shopping malls, lifestyle centers, and street locations across the United States,Canada and Puerto Rico.  Express merchandise is also available at franchise stores in the Middle East and Latin America. The Company also markets and sells its products through the Company's e-commerce website, www.express.com.

About Edcon
Edcon is South Africa's largest non-food retailer, with a market share of the South African clothing and footwear (C&F) market nearly twice that of its nearest listed competitor, trading through a range of retail formats. The Group has grown from opening its first store in 1929, to trading in 1 402 stores (as at 28 December 2013) in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia andZimbabwe. Edcon has been recognised in national surveys as one of the top companies to work for in South Africa and continues to make significant progress in its equity and transformation goals.

Our retail businesses are structured under three divisions: Edgars division, including Edgars, Boardmans, Edgars Active, Edgars Shoe Gallery, Red Square and the Group's mono-branded stores such as Topshop Topman, Tom Tailor, Dune, Lucky, T.M. Lewin, Lipsy, Inglot, La Senza and Accessorize whose product is also available through Edgars stores, serves principally middle and upper income markets; Discount division including Jet, JetMart and Legit, serves principally middle to lower income markets; and CNA, the Group's stationery, books, games, movies, music, hi-tech electronics and mobile retailer. The Edcon Credit and financial services division provides credit and insurance products to the Group's customers.

With the launch of its "Thank U" loyalty programme, Edcon now has the largest retail customer database in South Africa which enables it to provide customers with relevant offers across its suite of retail and financial services products; this programme includes all mono-branded stores in South Africa.

For more information, please visit the Edcon website: www.edcon.co.za

About Edgars 
Edgars is the Department Store of Choice for Men's, Ladies, Kidswear, Footwear and Accessories for every occasion. Showcasing the widest range of the latest's fashion trends from top international brands to own private label brands; Edgars offers something for everyone. There are 181 Edgars stores in South Africa including neighbouring countries.

Original source: http://www.express.com/custserv/investor_relations.jsp?isSessionExpired=true&_requestid=24016435