Clothing group Benetton SpA announced on Wednesday it had opened two new megastores in Paris in the latest step of its strategy to move out of franchising and concentrate sales at fully-owned sale points.

The new stores, based in Place de l'Opera and Avenue des Champs Elysees, are part of the retailer's plans to expand in the French capital. Two more stores are planned for Rue de Rennes and Boulevard Haussman.

The fashion giant currently operates around 5,000 stores around the world, with the majority of them run through franchising agreements. However, as part of its plan to increase the number of fully-owned outlets it has built 92 megastores and plans to have 300 by 2004.

In an interview with French daily Le Monde on Wednesday, chairman Luciano Benetton said: "Our target is to increase sales in France by 30 per cent per year. Paris is a global shop window for fashion."

He added: "We've neglected France a little in recent years. By 2004 all major French cities will have their Benetton 'shop window'."

Benetton's worldwide expansion programme comes as it faces increased competition in its home territory as Spanish competitor Inditex SA is expected to begin setting up its chain of Zara stores in Italy next year.