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Galeries Lafayette eyes China

French department store group Galeries Lafayette has kick-started plans to enter China in a joint venture with fashion retail company IT.
Chinese firm IT will be the majority shareholder in the venture, operating one or more department stores under the Galeries Lafayette name.

The two companies signed an informal agreement aimed at finding a location, likely to be in Beijing or Macao.

The move to China is not Galeries Lafayette’s first step outside its home market. In 1991, it opened an 80,000sq ft store in the Trump Tower in New York, which closed three years later due to poor sales. In 1996 Galeries Lafayette opened a branch in Berlin.

The Chinese market has attracted intense interest from international top-end department stores recently. In April 2006, Saks Fifth Avenue signed a deal with a local partner, Roosevelt China Investments Corporation, to develop stores in China. The first, a 300,000sq ft store in Shanghai, will open next year. Up to five more may follow in the next five years, including in Beijing and Macao.

Galeries Lafayette has 63 stores in France, plus the Berlin store, with a total floor space of 5.4 million sq ft across the group. Turnover in 2006 was €1.77 billion (£1.26bn).

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