Maternity apparel retailer Mothers Work Inc has signed its first international franchise agreement with Multi Trend, a member of the Al-Homaizi Group, to take its brands into six markets in the Middle East.

The multi-year franchise agreement covers the Destination Maternity, Motherhood Maternity, A Pea in the Pod, and Edamame The Maternity Spa brands and will see the first retail locations open during 2009.

Under the deal, Multi Trend and its local subsidiaries will buy merchandise from Mothers Work or specified suppliers and will operate the retail locations in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

Ed Krell, chief executive officer of Mothers Work, said the move is an "important first step in the international expansion of our business and our brands beyond the United States and Canada."

Mothers Work and Al-Homaizi Group say they will work together to select a product range to meet the needs and style of moms-to-be in the Middle East taking into account cultural and fashion sensitivities.

Multi Trend is already a franchisee in the Middle East for brands including Custo Barcelona, Joe Bloggs, Go Sport, and Cath Kidston.