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Getting out of the Office

As branded footwear retailer Office reports soaring sales and plans to launch outside of the UK and Ireland next year Ruth Faulkner considers the retailer’s success.

In a retail climate that has seen its fair share of doom and gloom over the last two years it is always good to hear from retailer report positive results.

Footwear has admittedly weathered the recession better than other areas of the fashion sector. But even within more benign trading conditions Office’s 16% like-for-like sales growth, the second of two years of double-digit growth for the retailer, is undoubtedly impressive.

By the end of this financial year Office will have a total of 92 standalone stores and 56 concessions – making it one of the biggest footwear retailers in the UK.What is the secret to Office’s success?

Chief executive Brian McCluskey says that branded footwear continues to do well but it is all about selling the right brands. Office has been the facilitator of some of the biggest brand explosions in footwear in recent years.

Take, for example, young fashion espadrille brand Toms. Barely known in the UK three years ago the brand has since, quite simply, exploded. And, when it first came to the UK, one of the first high street retailers to stock the brand was Office.

Other brands who have found Office to be core to their UK growth strategy include ballet pump specialist Butterfly Twists.

The next challenge for the business is international expansion plans. Will the brands it backs work in different markets or will they have to tailor what they do for each country and culture?

McCluskey and his team have so far shown that they can pick winners - they must make sure they do their homework to ensure that success continues overseas.

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