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Kookai gears up for UK growth

Kookai is on the expansion trail with plans to take the business more upmarket, a year after its UK operation was bought out of administration.

The retailer closed more than half of its 55 UK stores and concessions after retail entrepreneurs Michael and Maurice Bennett and former Marks & Spencer director Maurice Helfgott took over the UK operation in January 2006. Kookai now has 10 standalone stores and 28 concessions in the UK.

But managing director Guy Critchlow said that the time was right to expand Kookai after developing a more aspirational feel, which would position it alongside the likes of Reiss and Coast.

Critchlow said: "Most of the range is now sourced from the international collection in France and we have a very good relationship with them. It is a return to the more sophisticated, sensuous heritage of the brand, but still affordable. We've increased quality and fit, entry prices are down by about 10%, and we are attracting customers in their late twenties and thirties. We've had a great reaction to the spring collection and we're looking to expand."

Kookai has signed property agent Leslie Perkins to scout for 1,000 sq ft units in major towns, with a view to expanding its standalone store portfolio.

The retailer was previously run in the UK by licensee Forminster, whose parent Adjustbetter went into administration last January. Amery Capital, owned by Helfgott and backed by the Bennetts, now runs Kookai UK as a joint venture with Kookai SA in France, which is owned by Vivarte.

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