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Can foreign retailers spice up the UK?

February has kicked in with the usual spinning of the fashion jobs roundabout. This week's issue is full of news of executive entries and exits across all areas of the high street - it seems that those CVs were being polished up before the turn of the year.

Traditionally, people decide to look to pastures new in January, but what's perhaps more interesting is that 2007 appears to be shaping up as a year where international retailers decide it's time to take a serious punt at the UK high street. The past is littered with the corpses of established overseas retailers convinced that the UK will be the pot of gold at the end of the retail rainbow. Has anything changed or is now the time for the international crowd to really make waves?

The success of Inditex's Zara has changed the way US and mainland European retailers view the UK market - the theory is that if Inditex can crack it, surely others can follow. There are also more smaller store units becoming available as many UK operators size up to house their expanding lifestyle offers, and this is acting as a catalyst for change.

But it is still a desperately expensive decision for the international brigade to make. Retailers that decide to give it a go have to have deep pockets, because almost everything about the UK cost model comes at a high price.

Costs aside, there are the vagaries of the UK consumer to consider. The fashion shopper is hard enough for home-grown retailers to keep a handle on, let alone those that have little understanding of the UK fashion psyche. International retailers will need to get to grips with which footballer's wife is wearing which outfit, how a supermarket can cut the legs out from under a key part of your offer, and why that so desperately matters if they want to chase sales.

So it will be with a great deal of interest that Drapers will watch the progress of Italian lingerie chain Intimissimi, which is already popping up at an impressive rate in smaller units in central London. Another one to keep an eye on is US young fashion outfit Abercrombie & Fitch, which is due to open in a massive and slightly off-pitch site in central London's Burlington Gardens late next month.

However, it is difficult to tell how either of them will fare. I wish them well because the UK fashion high street at the moment badly needs an injection of newness. It is looking very staid and more than a little jaded post-Christmas, despite the flood of new-season stock that is now making inroads in stores.

Too much choice in terms of fashion trends has diluted the season's offering. Times are not easy and although shoppers are back out there, they are now doubly cautious about their spend. More than ever, they have to be wooed into parting with their money.

Perhaps the round of new appointments at various retailers will help to make the difference. Something needs to give, because with a few honourable exceptions there is not a lot out there to excite shoppers at the start of this spring season

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