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New markets offer growth for Monsoon

Womenswear retailer Monsoon will focus on overseas openings this year to help offset the slowdown in the UK.

Monsoon, which also owns accessories chain Accessorize, said it would open 109 stores in 2009. The majority of these will be in overseas markets.

Chief operating officer Steve Back said the retailer would launch into six new markets as part of the expansion plans, but declined to reveal in which
countries. He said: “We will open 22 stores in February and 24 stores in March. The openings will be slightly more towards Accessorize stores.”

Last week, Monsoon released its first figures since the business was privatised by its founder Peter Simon in 2007. For the 66 weeks to August 30, sales were £710 million - a rise of 5.3% on an annualised basis. Operating profit was £68m over the 66-week period, a 12% increase on an annualised basis. Operating profit was £47.7m for the 52-week period in 2007. But underlying sales fell 2.1 over the period.

Back said: “You have to look at the balance of each of the markets we are in. The Middle East is trading well. We opened in Libya and the sales from that have surprised us.”

Separately, Back said talks with suppliers about new terms had been successful. Monsoon was reported to have asked its suppliers for discounts to help offset the weak sterling. Back said: “There will have to be some price inflation because of the way the dollar is.”

He said it was important for retailers not to get caught up in the spiral of negativity. He said: “It is unchartered territory but I do wish to remain positive.”

He added that Monsoon could stand to benefit from increased interest in ethical issues. Ethical sourcing is a large part of the chain’s heritage.

He added: “Shoppers do accept that there is a price to pay to get quality. There are also a lot of baby-boomers from the 1960s with a lot of disposable income.”

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