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Local knowledge key to global expansion, say top retailers

The key to successful global expansion is for a brand or retailer to understand the nuances of other markets while not compromising the integrity of the brand, according to three international retailers.

Speaking at this year’s Drapers  Fashion Summit in London on Tuesday, Norman Jaskolka, president of footwear retailer Aldo, John Scott, head of international business development at Debenhams, and Jonathan Heilbron, president and chief executive of shirt retailer Thomas Pink, emphasised the importance of understanding consumer behaviour in new markets.

Jaskolka, who heads up Aldo’s 1,600-store operation in 66 countries via standalone store and franchise models, uses a templated scoring system to assess the suitability of new markets for Aldo.

“Whether a market scores 60 or even 90 out of 100 on the template, we will still go for it. But where a country only scores 60 we might only look to open 50 stores there, compared with 200 in a country that scores 90,” he said.

Heilbron said of Thomas Pink, which sells in 10 countries worldwide: “We have to take a different approach to different markets.”

Jaskolka added: “In countries like Malaysia we make sure we have a lot of our lower-priced product, but we make sure we stay true to the brand values and the service levels.”

Scott, who heads up Debenhams’ overseas development with 65 stores in 25 countries, said selling the concept of the department store is just as important as selling the product.

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