French Connection is to close all of its 21 stores in Japan over the next six to nine months, in part of a previously announced strategic review at the UK fashion firm.

The company's board is searching for an appropriate licensee to operate the brand in the Japanese market, it said.

French Connection's Japanese business was forecast to generate a loss of GBP2.5m in the year to 31 January 2010, having incurred a loss of GBP1.7m in the six months to 31 July 2009.

The business will trade as usual until the end of the calendar year and thereafter will operate with a focus of clearing any excess inventory.

The cash cost of the closures will be less than GBP0.5m, excluding the trading result up to closure, with one-off charges to the profit and loss account amounting to approximately GBP2.5m relating to closure costs and asset write-downs, the company added. 

Stephen Marks, chairman and chief executive, said: "I believe Japan continues to be an important market and presents a good opportunity for French Connection in the future.

"We will be maintaining brand presence in the market through our e-commerce offer, however in light of our strategic review and our aim of improving both profitability and cash generation for the Group in the short term, we feel that the most effective way of operating retail stores in this market is through a licence partner."

Last month French Connection announced plans to cut costs further over the coming six months after posting a first half pre-tax loss of GBP12.8m (US$21.2m), compared to GBP5.4m last year.