MIDDLE EAST: Peacocks To Spread Its Wings Offshore
Peacocks, the Cardiff-based value-for-money retailer that floated less than a year ago, is planning to expand overseas. The chain, which opened its 295th store in the UK at the end of September, is reported to be in discussions with a potential partner in the Middle East, with the aim of establishing a franchise. The retailer has identified the Middle East as a potentially strong market for its budget-priced apparel and is thought to be considering establishing a presence in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Peacocks is also said to be thinking about expansion into Eastern Europe.Talks are still at an early stage and a decision could be up to six months away. Richard Kirk, chief executive of Peacocks, was unavailable for comment.Despite the plans, the offshore business is likely to remain a relatively small part of the overall Peacocks operation while the group focuses on the rollout of its stores in Kingfisher's Big W outlets. Peacocks has signed a three-year deal with Kingfisher, the B&Q to Comet retail group that is dividing itself in two, to sell its clothes in Big W stores. Peacocks has already opened stores in five Big Ws. They are trading well and three more are planned in time for Christmas. An additional 20 stores will be opened during 2000 and 2001.Peacocks has also agreed to sell its clothes in Kingfisher's Woolworths stores for a six-month trial. If the tie-up is successful, Peacocks believes that it can more than double its turnover in five years. That would please shareholders, who have seen their shares sink from their 163p float price of last December to 104p. The company - the subject of a management buyout in 1997 - showed signs of suffering from rising competition in discount clothing when it revealed that comparable sales had slipped by two per cent in June and early July.
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