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Nicole Farhi targets growth after buyout

Nicole Farhi chief executive Niki Scordi has outlined plans to bring the loss-making luxury womenswear retailer and brand back to profit within a year following the completion of its sale to US private equity firm OpenGate Capital this month.

Scordi said she would launch international stores, grow online retail, extend product categories including accessories and form new licensing partnerships.

OpenGate Capital bought Nicole Farhi for about £5m from retail chain French Connection, under which Nicole Farhi made a loss of £5.6m last year and is understood to have been loss-making forseveral years.

Nicole Farhi launched a transactional website 12 months ago and is targeting substantial growth. “It is a tiny percentage of our business but I want to double it by next year then see double-digit growth each year thereafter,” said Scordi. It will add new content including ‘first-look’ catwalk videos and a blog from creative director Nicole Farhi.

The company is also finalising a licensing deal for an undisclosed new product category that is on track to launch at the end of the year. “We will grow the brand with new licensed categories, particularly on the accessories side,” said Scordi.

Nicole Farhi, which has six UK stores, plans to open one more standalone store by the end of 2011 followed by a wider roll-out in 2012.

“There’s a lot of potential overseas. We have identified key cities where we want stores across the US and Europe including Paris and New York,” she said. “Then we will look to the Far East starting with Hong Kong.”

She also defended the positioning of Nicole Farhi and its diffusion line Farhi, following criticism by stockists that it had lost its designer edge and become too widely distributed, as reported by Drapers (March 20).

Scordi said: “We will add more design detail and luxurious fabrics but the signature is right and the brands are not available anywhere that is inappropriate.”

She added that the company would work more closely with its UK stockists, although it was unable to say how many there were as Drapers went to press.

Scordi added that she was planning to keep pricing the same for spring 11 and that a return to profit would also be facilitated by negotiating better supply chain deals.

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