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French Connection to vacate Regent Street store

French Connection will move out of its loss-making 6,500 sq ft store at 249-251 Regent Street at the end of March 2016 to make way for the building’s redevelopment.

Drapers understands the retailer has no immediate plans to find another store on the street. It has a larger, 14,000 sq ft flagship about 300 yards away on Oxford Street.

French Connection has also revealed it will have closed a total of seven non-contributing stores – three in the UK and four in the US – within the second half of the year, which ends on January 31 2016, as it continues to rationalise its portfolio. 

By year end, it will have 59 UK stores and four in the US, including its flagship in New York. 

The group, which comprises French Connection and smaller businesses Toast, Great Plains and YMC, has 390 stores worldwide. It did not provide a further breakdown.

Group like-for-like sales for the UK and Europe were up 0.2% year on year for the 16 weeks to November 21. Gross margin was up by 150 basis points during the period as the full-price sales mix increased.

It comes after a challenging first half, in which the “disappointing” performance of its spring 15 collection and reduced store portfolio led to a drop in sales. French Connection closed six stores during that time.

This week the retailer said sales of the autumn 15 collection have “continued to be strong after the promising start to the season”. Sales have been driven by knitwear, denim and latterly partywear.

Chairman and chief executive Stephen Marks said: “I am pleased to report that the performance of the group has improved considerably compared to the first half of the year, particularly in the UK and European retail stores.

“While we still have the all-important Christmas period to come, we expect the results for the full year to be in line with market expectations.”

A source close to the situation said: “French Connection is looking at a number of disposals of stores but also some acquisitions. It has definitely turned the corner now.”

French Connection will receive compensation of £2.4m for vacating the Regent Street store.

Former Gap vice president of global design Maria Chen, who was appointed as womenswear director in October, has now joined the company.




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