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First US Phase Eight store to open in 2015

Phase Eight will open its first stores in Mexico in the next six months, followed by a shop in the US in early 2015, Drapers understands.

Plans to expand into the US were revealed during its trading update last week (June 27), as it seeks to target a gap in the markets for fashionable women aged 35-plus. Chief executive Ben Barnett said he was also considering expanding into Canada.

A source told Drapers the Mexico launch was likely to take place in September, followed by the move into the US by January or February next year. It declined to comment on the number of stores or concessions it was hoping to open in these territories or the timings for the launches.

It is expecting to open around 300 international stores and concession over the next three to five years, but would not split this down into specific markets.

A spokeswoman added: “Our current focus is to prioritise efforts between markets, and the location of new openings will be determined by relative performance.”

Phase Eight’s international sales have been growing since it opened its first overseas store in the Swiss town of Fribourg in 2012. Owned by private equity group TowerBrook, it now has 102 international stores in locations including Australia, Switzerland and Germany, as well as 105 stores and 195 concessions in the UK.

Barnett said: “The US isn’t a natural first market; it’s very competitive. But we now have 102 stores in 13 countries, so we feel much more confident we have the right product and proposition.”

Several routes to market will be deployed – including high street or shopping centre stores and concessions – as it adapts to local demands, he added: “We’re not just going to take the Westfield White City store and dump it in New York.”

Barnett claimed its offer would fill a gap in the US market for clothing aimed at fashionable 35-plus women. “We haven’t come across a brand that’s obviously doing our job,” he said, noting one potential competitor – Tadashi Shoji – offers dresses, but not a full wardrobe.

“Our product stands out,” he said.

Its US ambitions were revealed as its results showed a 15% increase in turnover to £141m for the year to February 1. EBITDA rose 16% to £24m. Online sales rose by 24%, accounting for 16% of the business.

Overseas sales now comprise 11.5% of its turnover, up from 3.7% the year before. Barnett told Drapers he expects this figure to exceed 20% by January 2015. He also hinted at a new concession launch in the UK next year, but refused to give more detail at this time.

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