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Forever 21 chief cautious over UK expansion plans

US fast-fashion chain Forever 21 is viewing its UK expansion with “caution” as economic conditions turn volatile.  

Larry Meyer, chief executive of the young fashion retailer, which has previously laid out ambitious expansion plans, said: “The UK, and Europe in general, is not the same today as it was two years ago. There’s no certainty in the EU. We’re approaching our expansion with a sense of caution.”

Last year, Meyer said he wanted to open 100 stores in the UK, one in “every major city, every mall and every major high street” within the next five years, building on its existing presence in London’s Oxford Street, Birmingham Bullring and Westfield Stratford.

Last July, the chain signed for a 35,000 sq ft store in Lakeside, Essex. It also signed for stores in Bluewater, Liverpool One and Glasgow’s new Buchanan Street development, all of which are yet to open.

Meyer declined to say whether store number projections would be affected. But he conceded that, though he was encouraged by UK performance so far, future expansion hinged on finding the right deals.

The business was looking to improve its logistics to cut delivery times. Famous for its daily deliveries in the US, it is looking to match those delivery times here.

In the UK, Forever 21 is pitted against some big names, including New Look, Matalan and Primark.

While Primark directors are optimistic about the coming year, supported by strong Christmas trading, Matalan and New Look, which have more complex finances, are more sensitive to consumer caution reducing their much-needed volumes.

John Bason, finance director at Primark parent Associated British Foods, said last month he expected consumer pressure to ease this year.

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