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Wolford sets ambitious target for UK expansion

Luxury legwear brand Wolford is on the expansion trail in the UK, with plans to double its standalone store count, increase its shop-in-shop presence and open concessions.

The move comes as it unveiled its latest designer collaboration, with Valentino, last week.

Wolford chief executive Holger Dahmen told Drapers that the company aimed to increase the global number of standalone stores from 222 to 300 in three years, with five new stores in the UK, its second strongest growing market.

He said: "We are talking to new partners in the UK and are interested in talking to more. We're looking for sites in the obvious cities." Wolford has five mono-brand shops, in London, Newcastle and Bluewater in Kent.

Dahmen added that the new store concept, designed in 2005 by London-based consultancy 20/20, would be rolled out to its first UK shop-in-shop this summer.

"It will be the first new-generation Wolford shop in the UK," he said. "The 485 sq ft space will be unveiled in a London department store in June."

He said the new design, which has been rolled out to 76 stores and shop-in-shops outside the UK so far, would be introduced in the rest of the portfolio in the next two years.

Wolford has 10 UK shop-in-shops at present, in Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, House of Fraser, Fenwicks, Brown Thomas and Arnotts.

"Our plans to open more shop-in-shops is in line with our standalone strategy," said Dahmen. "We're also considering opening concessions in the UK. We started a concessions business in the Netherlands and we've seen double-digit growth on like-for-like sales." He admitted that he has approached UK concessionaires but added that the process was in its early stages.

Wolford unveiled its latest designer collaboration last week, with Valentino. The Italian couture house has designed a collection of five bodysuits and matching tights for autumn 07, which will be available in stores in July.

Dahmen said Wolford would streamline its future collaborations, with one partnership per season. "We used to have collaborations running in tandem, but we don't want overlaps any more," he said. "These partnerships give us a stronger foothold in the international fashion scene - it allows us to be seen as more than a legwear brand."

Wolford introduced its ready-to-wear category in 2005. It also offers lingerie and accessories.

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