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Claire’s gears up for Euro growth

Women’s accessories retailer Claire’s has bolstered its buying team by 70% as it prepares for major European expansion.

The retailer has added 30 team members across its Birmingham-based buying and merchandising team as it seeks to establish itself as a trend-led chain. Appointments include Melanie Berry as general merchandise manager and buying director for Europe, who joined from accessories concessionaire business Icon Live, where she was trend forecaster and product developer; Janet du Boulay has been promoted to merchandising director for Europe; and Jo-Anne Watkins has been promoted to the newly created role of trend and product development manager.

European managing director Mark Smith said: “With a centralised team we’ll have a better handle on merchandise, but we’ll still have local buying advisers in each European region. We’ll have a global Claire’s offer, but also a regional flavour to reflect each country.”

Smith wants Claire’s to double in size across Europe in the next three to five years. He said: “We are looking to open 80 stores a year over the next five years. We have 60 in Spain and want to grow this to between 250 and 300. We have 20 stores in Germany, which we want to grow to between 300 and 400 stores. In France we have 200 shops, and are aiming for 300.”

He said Italy, Scandinavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and eastern Europe were other potential new markets.

Smith added that he was not concerned by fears over consumer spending. “We are at the low end of the market, so we’re insulated,” he said.

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