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Karen Millen on hunt for Paris flagship

Karen Millen is seeking a flagship store in Paris to support a concessions roll-out in the Galleries Lafayette department stores in France.

The Paris opening will be followed by standalones in areas such as Cannes, Marseilles and Lyon.

Karen Millen and Whistles international director Sanjay Sharma told Drapers he is looking for a site on the Rue Saint-Honore in Paris. "I would hope the store will be open in the next 18 months, but putting an exact timing on it is difficult, because finding the right site in New York for our SoHo store took us 18 months," he said.

"The trading evidence from our existing six concessions in Galleries Lafayette department stores has convinced us that it is worth opening a flagship to support our expanding business in France and to raise the brand's profile. A position on that street anchors us as a global brand to French consumers."

International sales make up just over half of Karen Millen's total turnover. Sharma said overseas sales were likely to exceed those of the UK and Republic of Ireland business in the next financial year.

Last week Karen Millen opened a concession in Galleries Lafayette in Bordeaux, and this week it launches in Galleries Lafayette in Annecy and Lille. Another six to eight concessions will open next spring. The womenswear chain is in discussions to open an additional 25 concessions in Galleries Lafayette.

Sharma added: "There is the potential to have a really chunky business in France with the concessions and a regional roll-out of standalones. That then sends a strong message to other European markets about the strength of Karen Millen as an international brand."

Karen Millen already has a store in Hamburg in Germany. Sharma said he is close to signing stores in Dusseldorf and Cologne, which are scheduled to open next spring. He is also in talks with German department store group Breuninger about launching concessions in its stores.

Elsewhere in Europe, Karen Millen trades in Holland, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark, and has franchise agreements in Spain and Switzerland.

Karen Millen operates two different models internationally. It has franchises in areas that are culturally or socially different to the UK and RoI, such as the Middle East and Russia, but 40% of overseas markets are operated direct.

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