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Watch out: the Americans are coming

Jessica Brown

While our homegrown brands and retailers are shaving capital expenditure and planning nervously for the fall-out from last week’s public sector cuts announcement, across the pond there are billionaire and millionaire entrepreneurs plotting to make their mark on the UK market.

While our homegrown brands and retailers are shaving capital expenditure and planning nervously for the fall-out from last week’s public sector cuts announcement, across the pond there are billionaire and millionaire entrepreneurs plotting to make their mark on the UK market.

Perhaps they are buoyed by the better than expected 0.8% growth in the UK economy between July and September.

Forever 21, the young fashion chain born in LA, is readying itself for a massive roll-out (p2), taking advantage of good property deals and the consumer’s ever-burning desire for new labels and more choice. Gap this isn’t - Forever 21 is probably the only US chain that could really cut it against the likes of New Look and H&M in terms of fashionability, speed and price, so rivals should be running scared when it launches over a massive 60,000 sq ft in Birmingham next month.

Leifsdottir, the premium contemporary womenswear wholesale brand owned by US chain Urban Outfitters, is also heading to UK shores and searching for stockists (p3). Its quality and designs are solid and it operates in one of the sub-sectors that’s been most immune to shopper spending cutbacks in recent months. It’s certainly worth a look for contemporary indies.

Meanwhile Office, the branded footwear chain, is said to have attracted significant interest from US investors. It took the unusual step of hiring a US corporate advisory firm, Financo, when it was put up for sale in late summer, in a bid to exploit the fact that US funds have more cash to flash and a bigger appetite for retail deals right now. Whatever the level of US interest though, I’m sceptical that it will go for as much as this week’s rumoured £170m. Retail remains a risky business, not matter how many sheepskin boots were sold in the UK last week.

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