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Cotswold Outdoor hits expansion trail

Cotswold Outdoor is looking to snatch market share from close rival Blacks Leisure, which is currently going through a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), by opening 20 stores within the next two years.

The outdoor specialist, which has 42 stores and stocks the likes of Berghaus, Columbia and The North Face, is hoping to take advantage of the troubles of Blacks, which has closed 89 of its stores.

Cotswold Outdoor is focusing on shopping centre and high street stores as well as sites in towns with a good market for traditional walkers.

Frederic Hufkens, executive chairman of Cotswold Outdoor’s parent group AS Adventure, said he had looked at the closed Blacks stores but had no plans to take them on, but he added that the UK outdoor market was “fragmented and competitive” which meant it was ripe for expansion.

Hufkens said he also wanted to expand outside of major cities. He said: “We want to open stores where you get a more enthusiastic rambler.”

Cotswold Outdoor has opened eight stores so far this year and will open another three stores before the end of the year. This month, the retailer opened a store at the £250m Union Square development in Aberdeen.

The retailer said like-for-like sales for the 44 weeks to October 31 were up 9.7%. It expects total turnover for the year to the end of December to be up 30% to £72m.

Hufkens added that sales at the business had been boosted by more customers spending their summer holidays in the UK due to the recession.

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