Spanish fashion retail Cortefiel Group continues to muscle up its business around the world, giving archrival Inditex a run for its money.

The Madrid-based company said Tuesday (17 October) that it will introduce its conservative-clothes Cortefiel chain in Egypt, Eastern Europe and The Persian Gulf in 2007.

In a statement, the Cortefiel Group said it will open five Cortefiel stores in Egypt through franchiser Allied Trading Group. This will be followed by 15 openings in the Balkans, most notably in Serbia and Croatia, through the IKSEL group.

Cortefiel will also roll out 15 stores in The Persian Gulf via Retail Gulf Group, entering big markets such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates but also Qatar and Bahrain.

It will also expand its upmarket unisex fashion label Pedro del Hierro (Peter of iron) and suits chain Milano in the Persian Gulf next year.

The expansion comes as the Cortefiel Group is rushing to build a fashion empire and double its size to nearly 3,000 shops in five years.

The move to expand Cortefiel, the classics chain through which the company expanded its business in the 1980s, comes after the Cortefiel Group announced it would bring its namesake banner to Holland.

Franchise director Alex Cara said the Dutch incursion's success has emboldened the group to tap new markets. "The success of our Holland openings reaffirms [the strategic sense] of our plan to export Cortefiel through franchisers," he said.

Apart from today's announcement, plans are also afoot to expand the group's Springfield and Women's Secret labels, which sell casual male clothes and female underwear, and have so far spearheaded the company's international foray.

The group's strategy is set to challenge top competitor Inditex (which runs the popular Zara fashion chain) which just inaugurated its store number 3,000.

Currently, the Cortefiel Group has 1,243 stores in 43 countries. It hopes to ring in the new year with 1,300 outlets.

By Ivan Castano.