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US retailer Max Studio to take on Reiss and Whistles

Upmarket US womenswear retail group Max Studio is set to compete with the likes of Reiss and Whistles by opening its first standalone stores in the UK.

The business, which has 48 US stores under the Max Studio and Leon Max fascias and a group turnover of $1bn (£634m), is scouting for locations in major UK cities. It is finalising deals to open stores in two London locations by the end of the year or early 2011 and plans to open in more UK cities after that.

In the US the group’s stores sell its trend-led offer across four labels. Max Studio is based around smart casualwear styles and includes tops, knitwear, outerwear, trousers, footwear and accessories, with dresses retailing between £125 and £199. Leon Max is more premium with a stronger focus on tailoring and formal styles and prices are around 20% higher.

Other labels include the lower-priced MSSP and Studio M, though there no plans to bring these to the UK. The London stores are likely to be under the Leon Max fascia, but the group said that other stores could trade under the Max Studio name, depending on location.

Max Studio already has a presence in the UK via its website - Maxstudio.co.uk - and 10 concessions, which launched here last September in department store chain House of Fraser.

The business is recruiting buying and merchandising and design teams. They will be based in Northampton, where Los Angeles-based owner Leon Max acquired country house Easton Neston in 2005, which has been restored to accommodate what will be Max Studio’s UK and European headquarters. The new teams will report to UK and Europe managing director and president of US retail and e-commerce Simon Goldstein.

“We see this as potentially becoming a full chain of stores,” said Max Studio’s marketing director, Marc Miller. “The product [sold in the UK] so far has all been from the US, so the new team will create a more targeted product for the UK. We compete with the likes of Karen Millen, Reiss, Whistles and Day Birger et Mikkelsen - it’s premium high street.”

He added that Max Studio was in talks with other major department stores to operate concessions.

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